Eastern Ont. farmers hail plans for fall elk hunt

Ontario’s plans to thin out its elk herd in September, by offering the province’s first elk hunt in over 100 years, are to include special permits for inundated farmers.

The province announced last week it will hold a week-long elk hunt from Sept. 19 to 25, with a “limited number” of licenses available through random draw for designated hunters in the Bancroft-North Hastings area.

Applications for an elk licence and seal will be made available in the spring, the province said.

The move follows a 10-year repopulation effort, in which the provincial natural resources ministry shipped elk from Alberta to four sites in Ontario, including Bancroft-North Hastings, between 1998 and 2001.

But local farms are victims of its success, as the herd’s growth has led to “overpopulation and subsequent damage to crops, property and livestock,” the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) said in a release Tuesday.

As an “immediate” solution for farmers, the OFA noted, the natural resources ministry will now also issue authorization permits that give farmers the ability to protect farm property and livestock from elk damage, as per the province’s new policy on the issue.

OFA president Bette Jean Crews said Tuesday the association worked “closely” with the ministry to help develop the hunt.

“We look forward to the implementation of the hunt which will help address issues raised by farmers in the area while ensuring a sustainable elk population,” she said in the province’s release last week.

The province, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and others have put in “countless hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore elk to their original ranges in Ontario,” OFAH executive director Mike Reader said in the same release.

“We are pleased that this will provide a new hunting opportunity and some relief for the Bancroft-North Hastings agricultural community from the pressures created by the growing elk population.”

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