While the number of elk crashes in the Cowichan Lake area may be remaining consistent, local officials say that number is consistently high, and something needs to be done to protect both the animals and humans involved.
It may seem like there’ve been more elk-vehicle interactions this winter along Cowichan Lake area roadways but the numbers are a bit misleading, police say.
Lake Cowichan RCMP Const. David Prak said it may seem like there’ve been more incidents lately, but it’s only because of the pandemic.
In 2022 there were the same number of elk versus vehicle incidents as in 2020: 22. In 2021 there were 13 but that lower number is an anomaly and simply because there were significantly fewer vehicles on the roads given the COVID-19 protocols in place.
Even so, council is still looking at ways to limit that type of dangerous interaction.
“There has been a rash of motor vehicle incidents involving elk along Highway 18 and out towards Youbou and a number of residents have requested something be implemented to limit these crashes,” said Mayor Tim McGonigle during the Dec. 20 Lake Cowichan town council meeting.
“We will look into a meeting with the appropriate ministries to do more to address these crashes before another fatality occurs and families are affected by that,” McGonigle said. “A public meeting was suggested and may be scheduled once more information [has been gathered] and appropriate people have been approached.”
It’s time to stop talking about it and start doing something, says Youbou resident Lisa Ketch.
She said the vehicle crashes involving the region’s beloved behemoths need to stop.
“The elk on the Highway 18 and Youbou Road are a serious issue,” Ketch said, noting she drives that route multiple times a day.
“It makes me crazy how people say slow down,” she said. “It has nothing to do with speed. The speed is 100km/hr so go the speed limit. It is 100 per cent a Highways issue.”
Ketch said there needs to be fencing along the entire highway, similar to how it is up-Island “and more lighting would be a start”.
Something needs to be done, she said, because while the locals know where the elk tend to be, it’s without a doubt, a growing tourist hot spot and tourists simply don’t know.
“The elk can literally jump out of the ditch and suddenly they are there,” she said. “I count a dead elk on more fingers than I have.”
Exacerbating the problem is that the elk population is growing.
Ketch said in the ’80s there were fewer elk and they stayed higher up in the mountains.
“It was nothing like today’s numbers,” she said. “It’s is not a healthy situation and something needs to be done. This will be costly, but how many people and elk have to die first before the government fixes the issue? Yes we live in their space, but if you allow growth, you need to protect the surroundings. Killing elk and humans is not protecting anyone.”