Elk in the Wetlands

Ungulates face tough times with the cold weather and large amounts of snow in the area.

Ungulates face tough times with the cold weather and large amounts of snow in the area.

The recent cold snap has most of us inside, close to the fire. Unfortunately, not all residents of the valley have that option. Right now 2-4,000 elk, moose and deer are facing one of the toughest times in their lives, with cold weather hitting, after a thaw that has melted the snow and created a hard crust in many areas. This makes it tougher for ungulates to get through the snow to feed, and it makes it easier for predators to travel and hunt. Especially if there are hard packed snowmobile tracks into wildlife areas, which make it even easier for predators to find and hunt their prey.Even in less difficult winters, winter is the most difficult time for ungulates, due to cold temperatures and limited access to food.  Most of the mature females are pregnant during the winter months and much of their energy is used on survival and successfully carrying their calves to term.  The noises and intrusions of humans cause the animals to move around and exhaust unnecessary energy.  In winters like this, elk retain body fat.  If this fat is used up before spring, the elk will start losing weight and could eventually die. Most will fail to bring their fetus to term if they are stressed during the winter.The Columbia Wetland Stewardship Partners were formed to help steward the wetlands and the wildlife that lives there. We would like to remind everyone in the valley that times are tough for ungulates right now and we need to think about their needs. We would ask that everyone reframe from running snowmobiles in the wetlands. Provincial regulations make it illegal to do so, both in the wetlands and on the river. The river is subject to the 10HP provincial regulation when it is iced over. If you observe motorized vehicles in the Columbia Wetlands, you call the provincial wildlife emergency number: 1-877-952-7277.We would also ask that everyone, including cross-country skiers and snowshoe users, to also stay out of areas where ungulates are wintering, especially if you have your dog along. You may not think you are having an impact when you see an elk, but you do, especially under difficult winter conditions.Thank you for helping maintain our elk herds and the wetlands.~Larry Halvcerson250 342 3305lkhalverson@gmail.com