Skip to main content

Hunting of Roosevelt elk is prohibited in most parts of southern Vancouver Island.

A member of the Ucluelet First Nation on Vancouver Island has been charged with illegally killing and possessing elk on aboriginal land, one of nearly two dozen elk that have been poached outside of hunting season since 2013.

The charges come amid a particularly bad stretch for illegal elk kills in the region and as First Nations communities in the area attempt to crack down on poaching.

"It's definitely been a big concern," said Ken Watts, vice-president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, which represents 14 bands, including the Ucluelet. "Elk are still really important to Nuu-cha-nulth."

Court documents show Wilson Timothy Jack of the Ucluelet First Nation was charged earlier this month with one count of hunting Roosevelt elk outside of season in Nuu-cha-nulth territory, near Port Alberni, B.C. He was also charged with one count of possessing dead wildlife without a permit.

Both charges, which fall under the Wildlife Act, date back to November, 2013.

"This might just be one elk – we don't know – but we're happy that some progress is being made in terms of illegal hunting," said Mr. Watts, who stressed he couldn't comment on the specifics of the case while it was before the court.

Mr. Jack could not be immediately reached and a staff member at the court registry said he did not have a lawyer.

A representative of the Ucluelet First Nation declined to comment, but the band issued a statement that said it "believes in and upholds the rule of law."

"An individual that breaks any law, … regardless of their position in the community or government, must be held accountable and face justice without favour or special treatment," the statement said.

A separate statement from the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council said it "is gratified to learn that progress has been made in investigating the illegal slaughter of Roosevelt elk in Nuu-chah-nulth territory."

The Nuu-cha-nulth tribal council said at least 23 of the animals have been slaughtered outside of season since 2013. The tribal council is offering a reward of $25,000, to be split between anyone whose reports of illegal slaughters lead to a conviction.

B.C.'s Conservation Officer Service also declined to comment.

The Roosevelt elk – which inhabits Vancouver Island – is the largest subspecies of elk living in North America. Sport hunters must participate in a lottery draw in order to legally hunt the animal, but no tags were allotted this hunting season.

"Unregulated harvest and natural mortality have brought the population to a level where a harvestable surplus no longer exists," a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Sharon Dean, said in an e-mail. "The hunt will remain closed until the population improves."

While the levels of poaching may not lead to the extinction of local herds, it prevents them from reaching a huntable size.

Indeed, Mr. Watts said there are First Nations in the area that have taken an extra step and closed off hunting for food and ceremonial purposes to their own members.

"Some of the First Nations have recognized that not only should it not be open to sport for recreational use, but also for our own community," he said. "In that particular area of Nuu-cha-nulth territory on the West Coast, the numbers are quite low in the herd."

Mr. Jack is expected to appear in court on Sept. 2.