ARMSTRONG - The Koersens are used to wildlife encounters, but they didn’t know what to think when a large herd of elk took up residency on their Armstrong farm.
“It was quite a surprise,” Susan Koersen says. “We get moose walking through the property, lots of bears, coyotes and deer. Elk is new.”
She and her husband started leaving a radio playing in their barn to ward of the unwelcome nibblers, and welcomed the distant crack of fireworks on New Year’s Eve; instead of celebrating, they were busy chasing elk out of the hay shed.
“They’re smart. They have to walk past a stack of bad hay to get to the good hay,” Koersen says.
Many passersby have stopped to watch the elk—and Koersen’s husband chasing them away, sometimes bravely on foot, sometimes charging them with his tractor. They can be aggressive, especially around their young, so it’s best to keep a distance, Koersen says.
The Koersens have lived on their 230 acre farm for many years, but only started noticing the presence of elk a couple summers ago. It started with two females who chose to raise their calves by the property’s creek. Word must have gotten out about the great location, Koersen says, because this year, she and her husband were astounded to see 50 elk roaming about their farm. They remained for months, far outstaying their welcome.
“They’re really nice to look at, it’s quite a show. I spent all summer watching them and taking photographs, but I was hoping they’d be gone before they noticed our hay,” Koersen says.
She’s usually met with incredulity when she tells people of their unusual pest problem. Not moose, elk, she tells them. And aside from fencing—which the elk are famous for plowing through—she’s not sure what they can do about it.
The loss of hay is only the beginning of their concerns. The elk also disturb cattle herds and have attracted unwanted hunters onto their property. They often cross windy roads in the area (to feast on neighbouring hay fields) and Koersen says the large animals pose a danger to vehicles. They may also be attracting wolves into the valley, she says.
While the elk recently moved on for the rest of the winter, Koersen suspects they’ll be back. Who knows how many friends they’ll bring with them.
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The elk arrived in the summer and stayed into the winter, departing only a couple weeks ago.
Image Credit: Susan Koersen