In six weeks, more than 50 elk will begin a new life in Northwestern Ontario after being selected for transfer to the Cameron Lake release site from Elk Island National Park in Alberta.
And that’s music to the ears of Mike Solomon, co-chair of the Northwestern Ontario Elk Restoration Coalition, who received the confirmation from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation late last week.
“It’s been more than two years in the planning and now seeing the fruition of our efforts is pretty exciting,” he enthused Monday morning. “We feel very positive.”
The herd—including 10 calves—will be picked up Jan. 17 at Elk Island National Park by 10 members of the N.O.E.R.C., who will drive the animals back in customized trailer units.
At least five members from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation also will help with transporting the elk.
If all things fall into place as planned, the elk will arrive at the Cameron Lake release site on Jan. 18 or 19 and be confined to a two-acre holding pen, where they will be fed, watered, and monitored for about 10 days prior to their release into the wild.
“The animals will have been completely processed, checked for disease, and inoculated before their arrival,” Solomon noted, adding 30 of the elk—10 calves, five bulls, and 15 cows—also will be equipped with radio collars for post-release tracking.
Solomon said the N.O.E.R.C. will meet frequently over the next month to finalize plans for the transfer, including weather considerations and what will come happen if the caravan arrives at Cameron Lake in the middle of the night.
“Our plan has been in place for a long time [but] there is a host of things coming into play right now,” he stressed.
Once the elk have been successfully released into the wild, Solomon said the N.O.E.R.C. hoped to start an “Elk Watch“ program that would get people involved by reporting sightings of the animals.
“We’re still looking at the viability of such a program [but] word-of-mouth support from surveyors, trappers, bush pilots, fishermen, [and prospectors is important,” he said, noting snowmobilers and canoeists also could play an important role.
“The [overall] role of the public is to be appreciative of what is taking place here,” Solomon noted. “The reality of bringing back the wild elk to this area is a pretty big thing.”