Elk monitoring on hold during calving season

A little peace and quiet.
That’s what members of Northwestern Ontario’s Elk Restoration Coalition (NOERC) are giving the herd of wild elk that has been living near Cameron Lake since their release there earlier this year.
Monitoring of the elk was cut back in mid-May until at least July to allow the animals some uninterrupted time during calving season–a critical time for both the cows and newborns.
NOERC co-chairman Mike Solomon said there’s some evidence that cows will abandon their calves if they are pestered or disrupted to any degree.
But he also noted the coalition really was in the dark about the finer details of the elks’ calving season given no testing was done at the Cameron Lake site to determine that.
“There were obviously some pregnancies when the elk were sent here from [Alberta] but we have no way of knowing the numbers of calves expected, or no way of knowing when and where they will be born,” he stressed.
A telemetry monitoring survey carried out at the site by NOERC members during the first week of May also garnered some good results, said Solomon, adding all of the radio-collared animals (about 30) were located.
The elk had been under careful surveillance on a regular basis since their release in January. Aircraft monitoring determined most of them had stayed close to the pen area while others had roamed about up to 20 km from the site.
A 10-year-old cow was found dead in late March at the pen site by a conservation officer, who Solomon said saw no visible signs of injury or trauma.
An autopsy performed later in a lab revealed a huge benign tumour, measuring one metre in diameter and weighing 30 kg, was the cause of death.
A university student pursuing a Master’s degree will begin a two-year co-ordination of elk research monitoring in September.
“She’ll be out there bumping horns with [the elk],” said Solomon. “She’ll be in charge of the program and apply her expertise.”
Meanwhile, Solomon said NOERC will continue to solicit funding for the costly project, which includes monitoring and measuring environmental impact of the elks’ release into habitat occupied by other animals.