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BC Conservation Data Centre: Conservation Status Report

Cervus elaphus roosevelti
Roosevelt Elk



 
Scientific Name: Cervus elaphus roosevelti
Scientific Name Synonyms: Cervus canadensis roosevelti
Cervus elaphus roosevelti
English Name: Roosevelt Elk
   
Provincial Status Summary
Status: S3S4
Date Status Assigned: December 03, 2010
Date Last Reviewed: March 15, 2017
Reasons: Restricted range, with some local declines. The success of re-introductions to the Sechelt Peninsula is off-setting the declines, and the population is considered to be stable to increasing. Unregulated hunting, commercial forestry activities, and predation are potential threats.
 
Range
Range Extent: F = 20,000-200,000 square km
Range Extent Estimate (km2): 95,000
Range Extent Comments: 2017: Roosevelt Elk are restricted in British Columbia (and Canada) to Vancouver Island and portions of the southwestern mainland. The range extent, calculated using the minimum convex polygon method, is approximately 95,000 sq km. This is a generalized estimate of the range in which the subspecies might historically have occurred in the West Coast and South Coast Regions (administrative areas as defined by the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations). The subspecies was formerly found in the lower Fraser Valley and possibly a few large islands adjacent to Vancouver Island. A small remnant population of Roosevelt elk occur in the Phillips/Apple River area on the mainland coast. The present mainland populations are almost all descendents of 29 elk transplanted from Vancouver Island. These included three transplants totalling 24 animals from Vancouver Island to the Sechelt Peninsula between 1987 and 1989, and one transplant of 5 animals to Powell River in 1994 (B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2015). Recent transplants from Vancouver Island to Heydon Bay and the Phillips River on the mainland coast have also occurred. Translocations from re-established populations on the Sechelt Peninsula and Powell River areas to other parts of the South Coast Region have been very successful in re-establishing the subspecies throughout significant portions of its former range.

2010: Roosevelt Elk are restricted to Vancouver Island and small parts of the southwestern mainland. The range extent, calculated using a minimum convex polygon is approximately 48000 sq km. Formerly found in the lower Fraser Valley and possibly a few large islands adjacent to Vancouver Island. The present mainland populations are the result of three transplants from Vancouver Island to Sechelt Peninsula between 1987 and 1989 (Demarchi et al. 1992) and one to Powell River in 1994 (K. Brunt, pers. comm.). Since then translocations from the Sechelt Peninsula and Powell River to other areas in the Lower Mainland have continued, and have been very successful in re-establishing the subspecies in this part of its former range.
Area of Occupancy (km2): H = 2,501-12,500
Area of Occupancy Estimate (km2): 14,800 - 29,600
Area of Occupancy Comments: 2017: Elk Population Units (EPUs) geographically define relatively distinct populations, and are the relevant population management unit for Roosevelt elk in BC. The total area of EPUs within the range of the subspecies that currently have elk within their boundaries is approximately 74,000 sq km. Actual occupancy within each of these EPUs varies greatly - probably from 5 to 65%. A range of 20-40% occupancy (a generalized occupancy rate that could be considered applicable for the majority of EPUs) was applied to generate the estimate of 14,800 to 29,600 km2 as the current area of occupancy for the subspecies.
 
Occurrences & Population
Number of Occurrences: D = 81 - 300
Comments: 2017: EPUs generally follow major watershed boundaries, but can be modified to account for known elk distribution, habitat use, and movements (B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2015). Since EPUs are considered as subpopulations, they are considered to be the best means of defining occurrences of this subspecies. There are currently (in 2017) 79 and 35 occupied EPUs in the West Coast and South Coast Regions respectively.

2010: It is difficult to define occurrences for this subspecies. The largest continuous population ranges from Strathcona Provincial Park north to Telegraph Cove and the Brooks Peninsula. There are about 15 other smaller, somewhat isolated populations (i.e. occurrences) to the north and the south of this region. As of 2010 there have been 19 population units restocked in the South Coast subregion (BC Ministry of Environment 2010).
Number of Occurrences with Good Viability / Ecological Integrity: E = 41 - 125
Comments: 2017: Elk Population Units (EPUs) with a population estimate of > 50 elk are considered to have "Good" viability; EPUs with populations of >100 individuals are considered to have "Excellent" viability. Of the 114 EPUs that support elk populations, 54 (47%) are considered to have Good viability, while 16 (14%) have Excellent viability. Similar proportions of occupied EPUs in the West Coast (primarily Vancouver Island) and South Coast (mainland) Regions are considered to have Good or Excellent viability (47 and 49% for the West and South Coast Regions respectively). However, a larger proportion of West Coast Region EPUs (13 of 79 or 16%) are considered to have Excellent viability compared to the South Coast Region (3 of 35 or 9%).
Number of Occurrences Appropriately Protected & Managed: C = 4 - 12
Comments: 2017: The only occurrences of the subspecies where almost total protection exists from two of the most significant potential threats (commercial forestry and most unregulated harvest) is within Class A Provincial Parks. Strathcona Park on Vancouver Island represents the largest of this type of protected area, but there are only 3 occurrences that are exclusively or substancially within the boundaries of the park. This being said, a ranking or "C = 4 - 12" infers that only 4 to 12 occurrences are ".......appropriately protected and managed." This is not really the case, as the majority of occurrences are currently considered to be very well-managed from a population management (harvest) perspective, and an assigned value of "E = >40" would be a more realistic assessment of occurrences where appropriate population management occurs. However, if "protection" is considered to refer only to the availability of suitably designated/protected critical winter range, a range of 4 - 12 occurrences would be considered to be more appropriate. Compared to public lands, commercial forestry activities on private lands occur with less stringent restrictions related to habitat management for this subspecies. Approximately 20% of the occurrences of this subspecies occur exclusively or substantially on private lands.
Population Size: E = 2,500 - 10,000 individuals
Comments: 2017: there are an estimated 5,500 and 1,600 Roosevelt elk in the West Coast (primarily Vancouver Island) and South Coast (south-coastal mainland) Regions respectively (B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2015).

2010:There are an estimated 4200 Roosevelt Elk on Vancouver Island (K. Brunt pers.comm. 2010) and 1200-1400 on the Lower Mainland (D. Reynolds, pers. comm. 2010).
 
Threats (to population, occurrences, or area affected)
Degree of Threat: C = Medium
Comments: 2017: Harvest strategies, habitat management activities, and transplant programs currently in place have significantly reduced vulnerability of many occurrences of this subspecies. However, unregulated hunting, commercial forestry activities, and predation - particularly from wolves - can strongly affect elk populations especially on ranges where abundance is low and habitat conditions are not optimal. Over-winter mortality during periodic severe winters (which may become more frequent as a result of climate change) can also significantly reduce elk populations.

2010: Harvest strategies and habitat management activities have reduced the danger, but human settlement, over-harvesting, resource extraction activities, and poaching potentially threaten Roosevelt Elk (Demarchi et al. 1992). Unregulated hunting is likely the biggest threat on Vancouver Island (K. Brunt pers. comm. 2010). Predation, particularly from wolves, can strongly affect elk populations especially on ranges where the conditions are poor (Janz and Hatter 1986). Over-winter mortality can also significantly alter elk populations, for example in the winter of 1968-69, perhaps up to 50% of the Roosevelt Elk on southern Vancouver Island died (G. Smith, pers. comm.).
 
Trend (in population, range, area occupied, and/or condition of occurrences)
Short-Term Trend: GI = Relatively Stable to increase of >25%
Comments: 2017: Although there have been local declines in recent decades, the population of this subspecies in BC is currently considered to be stable to increasing. For Roosevelt elk, the short term time frame was assessed as 3 times the average reproductive age of females, or approximately 20 - 25 years. Total population estimates were 2,550 in 1986, 3,800 in 2001, and 6,900 in 2014 (B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2015), suggesting an increase of approximately 130% (around 3,000 to 6,900) over the short term. Populations in the West Coast Region have increased by approximately 95% in this time frame (from approximately 2,800 to 5,500); South Coast Region populations have increased by more than four fold over this period (from <400 to 1,600).

2010: Although there are local declines, the population is currently stable to increasing overall. The greatest rate of increase has occurred on the mainland around the site of re-introduction where there is an approximate increase of range and population of 20% per year (D. Reynolds, pers. comm., 2010).
Long-Term Trend: E = Decline of 30-50%
Comments: 2017: Little information is available to generate population estimates for Roosevelt elk beyond the short term. A long term (approx. 200 year time frame) estimated population decline of 30-50% is considered to have occurred primarily from a reduction of range of the subspecies as a result of European settlement and subsequent hunting pressure that extirpated local populations from southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland (Nyberg and Janz 1990).

2010: Human settlements and heavy hunting have extirpated local populations from southern Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland (Nyberg and Janz 1990).
 
Other Factors
Intrinsic Vulnerability: B=Moderately vulnerable
Comments: 2017: Roosevelt elk in coastal forests are primarily vulnerable to unregulated hunting, predation, and habitat degredation. Local populations - especially those that are composed of less than 50 animals - are considered the most vulnerable. This includes 60 EPUs (42 and 18 in the West and South Coast Regions respectively) of 114, or approximately 53% of the occurrences of this subspecies.
Environmental Specificity: C=Moderate. Generalist or community with some key requirements scarce.
Comments: 2017: A key requirement of this subspecies in coastal forests is the availability of critical winter range (Nyberg and Janz 1990). Old-growth forests on lower elevation gentle to moderately sloped south aspects, or valley bottoms with riparian influences, represent the highest quality coastal elk winter ranges. Forest development history has limited the availability of these habitats in most areas throughout the range of the subspecies.
Other Rank Considerations: 2017:The regulated hunting of this subspecies is highly controlled through Limited Entry hunting (for resident hunters), allocations (for Guide Outfitters), and harvest agreements with First Nations. Harvest rates are typically conservative in these scenarios. However, there is the potential of overharvest for sub-populations where unregulated hunting occurs (i.e. illegal harvest and/or where no harvest agreement is in place).
 
Information Gaps
Research Needs: 2017: Key research questions for the effective management of the subpecies include:
- monitoring the long-term effects of habitat enhancement activities (particularly those that are meant to enhance critical winter range characteristics of habitats); and
- determining of the specific amount and quality of critical winter range required to maintain and/or enhance populations.
Inventory Needs: 2017: Regular monitoring of population parameters and performance (every 1 - 2 years) should be conducted for intensively managed populations; less frequent monitoring schedules (every 3 - 5 years) could be used for other populations (B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations 2015).

2010: Routine inventories must be undertaken to get a better understanding on the numbers and trends of Roosevelt Elk.
 
Stewardship
Protection: 2017: Long-term protection of sufficient amounts of critical winter range is required.
Management: 2017: Management of forestry activities to maintain adequate quality - and distribution across the landscape - of forage and cover resources is required to satisfy seasonal habitat requirements of the subspecies. In addition, population harvest should be managed in a conservative manner, and predator management might be required to maintain occurrences with low population levels.

2010: Predator control and unregulated hunting should be reviewed; poaching remains a problem in some areas (K. Brunt, pers. comm.).
 
Version
Author: Brunt, K. (2017), Teucher, A. (2010), S. Cannings & L. Ramsay (previous versions)
Date: March 05, 2017
 
References
Blower, D. 1988. Wildlife distribution mapping, big game series, mountain sheep. Unpubl. map by B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC.
Demarchi, R.A., A.J. Wolterson, D.W. Janz, and K.R. Brunt. 1992. Elk management plan for British Columbia 1992-1997. Unpubl. rep. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Wildl. Branch. Victoria. 39pp.
Fraker, M.A. 1997. Element Provincial Ranking Form for Cervus elaphus roosevelti. B.C. Conservation Data Centre, B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria.
Janz, D.W., and I. Hatter. 1986. A rationale for wolf control in the management of the Vancouver Island predator-ungulate system. B.C. Minist. Environ., Lands and Parks, Victoria. Wildl. Bull. No. B-45. 35pp.
Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. 1984. Regional Wildlife Management Plan: Vancouver Island Region. Nanaimo, BC.
Nagorsen, D. 1990. The mammals of British Columbia: a taxonomic catalogue. Mem. No. 4. Royal B.C. Mus., Victoria. 140pp.
Nagorsen, D.W. 1998. Checklist of the mammals of British Columbia, Royal B.C. Mus. Online. Available: http://www.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/nh_papers/mammals/index.html
Nyberg, J.B., and D.W. Janz, tech. eds. 1990. Deer and elk habitats in coastal forests of southern British Columbia. B.C. Minist. For. Spec. Rep. Ser. 5, B.C. Minist. Environ., Tech. Monogr. No. 2. Victoria. 310pp.
Quayle, J.F., and K.R. Brunt. 2003. Status of Roosevelt Elk (Cervus elaphus roosevelti) in British Columbia. B.C. Minist. Water, Land and Air Prot., Biodiversity Branch, and B.C. Minist. Sustainable Resour. Manage., Conservation Data Centre, Victoria, BC. 39pp.
 

Please visit the website Conservation Status Ranks for information on how the CDC determines conservation status ranks. For global conservation status reports and ranks, please visit the NatureServe website http://www.natureserve.org/.

Suggested Citation:

B.C. Conservation Data Centre. 2017. Conservation Status Report: Cervus elaphus roosevelti. B.C. Minist. of Environment. Available: https://a100.gov.bc.ca/pub/eswp/ (accessed Feb 2, 2023).