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O.F.A.H. urges MNR to help farmers

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THUNDER BAY, ON - May 18, 2010 - The indiscriminate feeding of local elk in the Bancroft OFAHarea that has continued unchecked for years, and the province's failure to introduce a comprehensive elk management plan, has placed the future of the local herd in jeopardy. Elk have been the focus of an extensive reintroduction program that has cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and involved thousands of volunteer hours. The province's failure to properly manage the herd, to use new regulations under the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act to eliminate the feeding of wildlife, and to allow farmers to harass the elk to protect their property has resulted in serious damage to local farm crops and infrastructure. This has led the Minister of Natural Resources to consider euthanizing elk in the Bancroft North Hastings area through the use of removal (kill) permits, over the objections of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (O.F.A.H.).

The O.F.A.H. is one of several groups who have contributed financial and volunteer support to the province to restore elk to Ontario, where they lived for thousands of years before becoming locally extinct in the 1800's. O.F.A.H. staff have travelled to the area and met with local farmers, who are faced with broken fences, cattle escapes and crop damage, but are forbidden under the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act from using bang sticks, dogs or other means to harass the elk and protect their livelihood.

"For over two years, the O.F.A.H. has been urging the MNR to adopt a comprehensive elk management strategy to properly manage elk herds across the province, including the Bancroft herd which is estimated at 500 or more," said O.F.A.H. President Rob Hare. "The province's failure to act, coupled with the lack of available options for local farmers who are forced to sit and watch their farm property, crops and livestock be damaged, is unconscionable. The use of bang sticks, dogs and other harassment techniques should be part of a management strategy, which the province has failed to adopt despite years of discussion. Any suggestion that healthy elk be indiscriminately euthanized threatens the viability of the elk restoration effort."

The O.F.A.H. supports the position of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), which has been lobbying the province to address the situation for some time. Both organizations have urged the MNR to convene a meeting with all affected parties before it reached crisis proportions. Unfortunately, the Ministry has been slow to act, and the situation has escalated to the point where farmers' tolerance for the nuisance elk situation has been exhausted. The O.F.A.H. and OFA recommend that the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and the MNR develop a compensation package for farmers in the Bancroft area who have experienced losses due to elk.

"As the agency charged with the responsibility for managing wildlife in Ontario, surely the MNR can do better than suggesting that elk, which have been the focus of the restoration effort, should simply be eliminated," added Hare. "Why should the program and the animals themselves pay the ultimate price for MNR mismanagement and inaction?"

With over 100,000 members, subscribers and supporters, and 660 member clubs, the O.F.A.H. is the largest nonprofit, charitable, fishing, hunting and conservation-based organization in Ontario, and the voice of anglers and hunters. For more information, visit www.ofah.org.

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