POP: Elk and Deer Population in Farmland Areas

POP: Yes
Res #: POP 2-07A
Number: 2
Year: 2007
Midterm: No
Expired: Yes
Responses Received: No
Departments: Saskatchewan Environment

POP No. 2-07A
Elk and Deer Population in Farmland Areas

WHEREAS, Saskatchewan Environment has land along and near provincial forest areas dedicated as “Critical Wildlife Habitant”; and

WHEREAS, because of these dedicated areas, the number of big game wildlife (i.e. elk and deer) has significantly increased; and

WHEREAS, elk and deer are coming into the farmland causing damage to crops, feed supplies and property;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that critical wildlife lands within three miles of a provincial forest be a non-designated area for the protection to farmland and feed yards; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Saskatchewan Environment undertake a program to reduce the number of elk and deer in the farmland areas.

Response from Honourable John T. Nilson, Minister of Environment: 

Southern Saskatchewan contains one of the most modified landscapes in North American.  Because of our extensive agricultural industry during the past century, we have seen over 75 per cent of our natural areas in the agricultural region disappear to cultivation and other developments including roads, towns and cities.  Between 1976 and 1981, we lost two million acres of natural landscape.  As more land is broken, natural habitat disappears, and it becomes more fragmented.  This habitat provides basic necessities such as food, water and shelter for over 400 species of wildlife.  Much of the best remaining wildlife habitat is on Crown land.  These natural areas are very important for maintaining existing wildlife populations as about two-thirds of the land base in the south of the forest fringe in privately owed. 

In 1984, the provincial government initiated a conservation process by passing The Critical Wildlife Habitat Protection Act, now know as The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act (WHPA).  This legislation protects 3.4 million acres of uplands and wetlands, or one-third of all wildlife habitats in the agricultural region, in its natural state.  The Act prevents the government from selling designated Crown land, and lessees require permission before any clearing, breaking, or drainage occurs.  The philosophy of the Act is to conserve wildlife habitat while enabling compatible traditional uses to co-exist.  The request of the resolution for a non-designated area within three miles of the Provincial Forest would result in clearing and breaking of marginal farmland which run contrary to the original intent of the Act. 

Lands in The Wildlife Habitat Protection Act located along the forest fringe certainly are attractive to deer and elk but they are also important to many other species.  The fact that they are designated in the Act does not result in them having higher deer and elk numbers that similar habitat on the adjacent privately owned lands.  Vacant lands are open to anyone hunting and on leased lands access for hunters in controlled by the lessee. 

In order to increase the harvest of white-tailed deer and antlerless season is in place at the Forest Fringe Wildlife Management Zones in addition to the either-sex season.  The winter of 2006-07 has been longer than normal with above average snowfall along the fringe and is expected to result in significant deer mortality.  In light of these conditions additional measures to increase deer harvest are not warranted at this time.   

To increase elk harvest, the second week of the 2007 regular elk season will be open to the harvest of antlerless elk.  In addition draw quotas for the antlerless elk season have also been increased.