It has been almost a year since the first elk were released at Cameron Lake by the Northwestern Ontario Elk Restoration Committee and so far it’s been a great success, said co-chair Mike Solomon.
“The elk are alive and well,” Solomon said last week. “With the exception of four or five elk who died since the release, all the others are doing well.
“We even believe that there are four new [calves], possibly even six.”
Last January, the first elk were brought to their new home at Cameron Lake. Then on Valentine’s Day, 14 bulls were brought to the pen for the waiting cows.
“With our first group we only had one bull and we wanted to have more,” Solomon said. “So on Feb. 14, we got to bring 14 bulls down from Alberta to Cameron Lake.
“It happened to be on Valentine’s Day--we got a few good laughs about that one,” he smiled.
Out of the original herd, most are staying within close proximity to the Cameron Lake pen. Only a handful have ventured farther afield.
An elk farm six miles north of Williams, Mn. has reported a cow and two bulls have been trying to get through the fence to join the tame animals on the other side.
Another elk was reported killed by a train near Ely, Mn.
There also have been some elk sightings near Britt, Mn. and Straw Lake on the Cedar Narrows Road.
“We heard recently that some archers near Lawrence Lake were surprised when they were giving out some moose calls and were answered by one of our elk,” Solomon remarked.
The elk restoration program also has brought on a Lakehead University graduate to study and research the animals from Cameron Lake.
“Our student is a Master’s student who is working on her thesis,” noted Solomon. “She will be setting up her residence and then studying the elk and researching their behavior.”
Meanwhile, the NOERC plans on another release as early as December.
“We are hoping for about 50 elk,” said Solomon. “Elk Island National Park decides how many bulls and cows we are going to get so whatever amount they want to give--if it is viable for us--we will take it.”
The committee expects it will take at least three years for the elk to develop and establish themselves in the area.
“If the herd develops, we will be looking at five years before they will be fully established as a viable wild herd and will be able to do their own thing,” Solomon said.
Overall, he feels the program has done extremely well in the past year.
“I think it has been a big success,” he said. “The chairman of the provincial committee recently wrote me a letter telling me how proud all of us can be about the job we have done.”
And Solomon can’t stress enough how happy he’s been with the outpouring of support volunteers have given to the program.
“I can’t speak highly enough of the help we have gotten from volunteers and the [Fort Frances] Sportsmen’s Club,” he said. “We have had so much help, beginning with the construction of the pen to the maintenance of 28-km of road at a very nominal cost.
“Everyone has been just great.”