A young elk which has been seen numerous times near Whatcom Road and Highway 1 is an unusual visitor to Abbotsford.
Conservation officer Don Stahl said Tuesday the elk has been spotted regularly in the area north of the highway for the past week.
Other citizens have reported they have seen a pair of the creatures in the same area.
“I have never seen an elk in Abbotsford,” he said. “I’m not sure where it came from, but I want to emphasize that it is protected. The Sumas First Nation, who gave us a call, also wants to ensure that it is protected.”
Roosevelt elk are native to the West Coast, and there are more than 3,000 on Vancouver Island, mostly in or near the mountains in the central part of the island. There are significant herds in Strathcona Park near Campbell River. At one time, they were common in the Fraser Valley as well, but they were hunted out of existence here in the early 1900s.
Roosevelt elk can grow larger than other species of elk in Canada, and their historic range is from north of San Francisco to the B.C. central coast.
A group of 22 elk were transplanted from Vancouver Island to the Sunshine Coast between 1987 and 1989. That herd has thrived, and has been the source for further transplants north of Pitt Lake, north of Stave Lake, and on the west side of Harrison Lake. That transplant took place in 2013 and 2014.
Sts’ailes First Nation played a significant role in the project to bring elk back to Harrison, where they had once roamed. Forty of the elk have been relocated close to the Sts’ailes First Nation area, and 20 were brought up the river and Harrison Lake by barge to Port Douglas.
Stahl said he thinks the Abbotsford elk is a visitor from the Harrison Lake area. Elk from the Pitt Lake transplant have wandered down to the Albion area of Maple Ridge, adjacent to Lougheed Highway, and several years ago, an elk was hit and killed on Highway 1 near Annis Road in Chilliwack.
He said the Harrison elk have already been seen near Highway 7 on the north side of the Fraser, so seeing one in Abbotsford isn’t a complete surprise.
“Elk are on the increase in the Fraser Valley,” he said.
Stahl is asking members of the public to be vigilant in watching out for the Abbotsford elk and ensuring that no one tries to shoot it. He said people can report any violation of wildlife laws to 1-877-952-7277.