City Council Protects Elk Calving Habitat Within City Limits

January 27, 2021

At the January 25th Regular Meeting of Council, City councillors unanimously passed a motion to not support recreational trail development in elk calving grounds within Kimberley City limits.

The Wycliffe-St. Mary elk herd have been using the land west of Moe’s Canyon and south of Kimberley Alpine Resort (KAR) as calving grounds for years. Recreation including ATV use and mountain biking can have disastrous effects on elk herds by potentially reducing the herds reproductive success. The refuge will allow elk to continue using the land as calving grounds with limited disturbance from recreational trail users.

Further support was received from Dr. Kari Stuart-Smith, Senior Forest Scientist with Canadian Forest Products Ltd. (Canfor), which holds tenure in the area and have adjusted their silviculture treatment to best support the calving habitat. Support for protection also came from the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operation and Rural Development. Both organizations sent letters to Council supporting the refuge from further trail development. Resorts of the Canadian Rockies (RCR) is also supporting the grounds by keeping an eye on the herd and allowing the southern half of Moe’s ski run at KAR to grow in, therefore creating a natural transition into and an exit out of the elk calving grounds.

Emily Chow, Wildlife Biologist with the Ministry, stated in her letter, “Residents and visitors of Kimberley love the area for the diverse recreation and wildlife viewing opportunities. Designating a reserve for elk that protects them from high levels of human use would be a proactive approach to managing the area within and adjacent to Kimberley where both recreation and wildlife can thrive.”

Councillor Darryl Oakley, who brought forward the Notice of Motion, was very happy with the outcome. The 90-hectare area is 95% within City limits and limiting recreational development there will provide protection to the herd for many years, or until the ecosystem changes and they decide to calve elsewhere. Councillor Oakley also pointed to the research that supports this protection, “Elk are extremely sensitive to human interaction and there are several studies that support the City making this a quiet place for them. There are very few cities in Canada that can say they have an elk calving ground within their municipal boundary and I think that’s a phenomenal thing.”

Photo credit: Brian Copping, RCR