SOOKE HISTORY: Return of the elk

Elida Peers | Contributed

When the Sooke Region Museum was established in 1977, we asked many talented Sooke residents to help, among them Agnes Michelsen Dilley.

Dilley created a mural of local wildlife, which included Roosevelt elk.

No one had seen an elk in the Sooke area for many years, but it was acknowledged elk had once been part of the wildlife of the South Island.

As Agnes Dilley was descended from the Poirier family, who were renowned hunters in the area, it was only natural that her background would provide a genuine knowledge of the woods.

Nowadays we are experiencing the return of Roosevelt elk, and what a thrilling experience it is to see these wild creatures right within our populated streets.

In the accompanying picture, we are indebted to Ryan Spence, who was on his way to work from Henlyn Drive east along Grant Road when he spotted the two elk crossing Grant. He must have been quick on the draw, as while elk have been spotted a number of times, getting a photo is a challenge.

Elk have been prevalent in the San Juan River Valley and the Cowichan Valley for many years, as part of a provincial re-introduction program.

It was exciting to know that elk were making a comeback through the program, and I do recall many years ago chatting with T’Sou-ke chief Jim Cooper, who wept when he told me one of the magnificent bulls was poached.

We first heard of a local elk sighting about a decade ago from Maggie Flynn, who had seen a bull elk in an orchard on the south side of Highway 14, near the Humpback Road intersection.

Elk have been making themselves at home on Woodside Farm for several years, and about four years ago the museum had a bull elk take up his domain in the woods and swamp bordering the museum.

Elk sightings have occurred recently on Wadams Way, Marathon, and for a time we understand an elk made his home at the Ebbs-Canavan place on Calvert Road.

It’s been an interesting phenomenon to see a far greater abundance of wildlife – cougars, bears, wolves and elk – today than was witnessed in the previous one-hundred years.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum.

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