Area residents are disappointed and conservation officials concerned following the poaching of three bull elk in the Youbou area over the weekend, one of which could potentially be contaminated meat.
Larry Williams, who lives in the area and is a member of Wilderness Watch, first received reports Friday afternoon that an elk might have been poached. Multiple neighbours contacted him to say they had passed by men in a pickup on North Shore Road who “bragged” about having an elk under a tarp in the truck bed. The passersby told Williams they declined offers to see it.
Williams checked the area later that day and found an elk’s stomach and guts left behind in the woods. Everything else had been taken. He returned with a neighbour the next day to measure the distance from the road to the kill site, which he suspected might have fallen within the lake’s no-discharge zone.
Hunting is prohibited between the road and shoreline all the way around Cowichan Lake, and on North Shore Road there is also no hunting or shooting within 100 metres of the road going up into the hills.
When Williams and his neighbour measured the distance they uncovered a second kill site about 12 metres from the first, this one with the remains of an elk that had only its head, front quarters and hind quarters removed.
Both sites were within the no-discharge zone.
A third incident was reported to Wilderness Watch on Sunday when a local security company happened upon a similarly harvested elk (head, quarters and back strap removed; everything else left behind) which was also found within the lake’s no-discharge zone.
“It’s really disappointing. All of our neighbours up here love them,” said Williams. “They cause a bit of trouble but they’re our pets. We can almost walk up to them, so they’re pretty easy to shoot.”
He said that since the weekend, he hasn’t spotted any elk in the area, and he suspects they’ve been spooked and moved to higher elevations.
One elk in particular he’s been on the lookout for was recently tranquilized and tagged by conservation officers in order to remove debris tangled in its antlers. Because the heads of all three poached elk were removed, it is unknown whether one of them had been darted — meaning its meat could be potentially hazardous for human consumption.
“That drug is pretty potent. It can put an elk out that quick. You don’t want to have people eating that,” said Williams.
Conservation officer Mark Kissinger confirmed that his office is investigating the incidents, although said he could not release many details at this time.
He said they are still unclear whether one of the poached elk had been recently darted. He said the effects of the tainted meat on humans is unknown.
“It’s recommended that any tagged animal not be eaten within 30 days of being tranquilized,” he said.
Elk poaching at the lake is not uncommon, and the numbers vary year by year.
“It’s gone from a high of 40 we’ve documented at one point down to maybe three some years,” he said.
Wilderness Watch coordinator Denis Martel said he thinks it will be impossible to eliminate poaching entirely, but hopes through diligent reporting by the public, unlawful harvesting can be kept to a minimum.
He said the grey and stormy weather conditions over the weekend likely facilitated the poaching.
“You’re not going to have as much traffic on North Shore Road, and of course during storms you’re not going to have as many people to see and get caught by,” he said.
“I’d like to thank the public for all their help in continuing our fight with helping our Roosevelt elk population. It’s only with their help, through their eyes that we can observe, record and report any occurrences with our wildlife.”
The hotline for tips about this or other poaching incidents is 1-877-952-7277. Martel can also be reached directly at 250-732-0139.