Elk herd crossing Highway 97A in search of food

Snow at higher elevations forces herd to move into valleys

Why did the elk cross the road near Enderby?

Likely in search of food, says Andrew Walker, a wildlife biologist with the provincial ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD).

And drivers who travel Highway 97A between Salmon Arm and Vernon should keep a close eye on the straight stretch near the Starlight Drive-in, because Walker believes there’s a good chance the herd of about 70 elk will cross the road again.

There are several other herds in the Upper Shuswap that may mix with each other in different times of the year, he says, pointing out that recent snow has brought them down from higher elevations.

Read more: Elk herd crosses highway in B.C.’s Okanagan

Read more: Elk running across Enderby highway killed in car crash

“We don’t really know why they moved, but I would speculate they were just going to where there is food to support them without being disturbed,” Walker says, noting the elk may have been disturbed from the new site. “There are small herds scattered from Falkland all the way up to Cherryville; they’ve been around for a long time and they’re probably doing a little better.”

Read more: Column: Elk moving up into Shuswap area

Walker says there have been recent reports that elk have been moving into the Thompson region in search of new food sources. While a formal inventory of the herd near Enderby has not been done, Walker says it is on his to-do list.

“We pick them up incidentally on moose surveys and get lots of reports from the ranching community, so we loosely keep inventory,” he says.

While they haven’t had complaints this winter, Walker says elk will help themselves to hay and stored feed if it’s not properly secured. And the herbivores, who enjoy shrubs and grass, will view a nutritious field of alfalfa as a delicious buffet.

In the meantime, Walker says he’s thankful the herd is, so far, crossing the road on a straight stretch with excellent visibility.


@SalmonArm
barb.brouwer@saobserver.net

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