After nearly a century, wild elk are returning to Ontario’s forests.
Prior to the late 1800’s, elk were just as abundant as white-tailed deer and moose in Ontario, Canada, but overharvesting and loss of habitat wiped them out. After several failed reintroduction attempts, “The Plan for the Restoration of Elk in Ontario” was created and, between the years of 1998 to 2001, elk from Elk Island Provincial Park in Alberta were introduced to several regions around Ontario.
Of the four release sites, the Bancroft/North Hastings area has had the highest elk growth; the Ontario elk population there has tripled since 2000. For the first time in over 100 years Ontario’s elk hunt has returned to this area with populations numbering over 500. I had the chance to gain access to private land that some of the herds travel through, and witnessed the effects these Ontario elk have had on local communities.
My first trip was in the middle of the rut. You’re always hearing the negative side of hunting, but this is truly a feel good story and one that everyone should be proud of – it was one of the most awe inspiring experiences of my life.
I was sitting on a fence line dividing a small section of forest from a rocky field outcrop. It was a rainy day, and the sound of thunder had been a common occurrence throughout the day. Waiting on the ground I felt a vibration that felt like a small earthquake with a deep rumble. Out of nowhere a herd of 15 elk with one large bull came running down the rocky hillside. They stopped right in front of me and continued to graze and court each other. I spent 10 hours that day in the rain photographing them and watching how they interacted with the land where they once existed.
The sound of elk bugling through the air brings back a sense of wildness to Ontario. The other reintroduction sites are doing well and, hopefully, in time the elk will be a common sight throughout the province.
Ontario is covered in 3 million square kilometers of boreal forest, which is an ideal ecosystem for elk to reproduce and grow in. With the help of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, as well as the Ministry of Natural Resources, elk will soon be a member of wild Ontario once again.
Not only will these beautiful animals give Ontario back one of its native species, but they will also give hunters a new species to target and boost the local economy.
Are you interested in hunting elk in Ontario? Let us know in the comments below.