A plan to ban hunting along Atlin Road faced stiff opposition at a meeting by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board on Monday.
Yukon’s Department of Environment made the proposal after public complaints triggered by the shooting of several bears along the road in recent summers.
Ken Gabb, who lives along the road, argued roadside hunting is inherently unsafe, unsightly for tourists and unsporting.
But everyone else who spoke disagreed.
“Road hunting is a way of life in the Yukon,” said Don Toews, a former board director.
Yukon has several no-hunting corridors. They’ve had mixed results. “Most have not worked. Some have failed,” said Toews.
Most controversially, the territory imposed a no-hunting corridor along the Dempster Highway, but the government stopped enforcing the corridor in 2007, after the Tr’ondek Hwech’en First Nation threatened legal action.
“I haven’t seen any evidence this is a safety issue,” said Whitehorse resident Guy Coderre.
It’s already illegal to discharge a firearm within one kilometre of a Yukon residence, he noted. It’s also illegal to shoot across the road, or to shoot in an otherwise dangerous manner.
In British Columbia, hunters may shoot within 100 metres of a home – a boundary that’s just one-tenth as big as Yukon boundaries. Why, Coderre asked, are people in British Columbia safe, and Yukon unsafe? “I don’t see the logic in this.”
If hunters aren’t aware of residences that are hidden back in the bush, a better solution would be to post no-hunting signs within one kilometre of these homes, said John Carney, president of the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
He called the proposal “a knee-jerk reaction.” He worried it would hinder hunters who shoot grouse and small game at Little Atlin Lake.
The territorial government encourages hunters to take bison and elk off the roadside, because the animals are perceived to be a threat to vehicles, he said. It’s inconsistent to now tell hunters that roadside shooting is unsafe.
“If you have a problem here, then you better start looking all around the Yukon.”
The Carcross/Tagish First Nation opposes the proposed corridor, said deputy chief Danny Cresswell. Too much land is already off-limits to hunting, he said.
And his members hunt safely, he said. “Our people who go up and down that road, they know exactly where everywhere lives.”
Patrick James, chair of the First Nation’s land-use team, echoed this. “All we see are responsible hunters, who are very educated,” he said.
If roadside hunting along Atlin Road ends, “you’d have to shut down the whole Yukon,” said James.
“I’m a little angry tonight. It’s wrong, what the government’s trying to do: top-down decisions.”
The real threat to safety along Yukon’s roads isn’t hunting, said Whitehorse resident Peter Harms. It’s other vehicles.
The proposal was put forward by the Environment Department to gauge public interest, said Rob Florkiewicz, manager of species programs. Judging by the mood of the room at the meeting, attended by about 50 people, it will now be quietly buried.
Contact John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each autumn, the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board holds public hearings on proposed wildlife regulations. The board later makes recommendations, but Environment Minister John Edzerza ultimately decides which plans become law.
Here are the other proposed wildlife regulations:
* Completely close hunting of the Chisana caribou herd. The herd is already supposed to be protected, but several subzones within its range had until now been “overlooked,” according to the proposal by Environment Yukon.
* Establish a permit hunt for Dall sheep in the Kusawa area. See story, page 11.
* Restrict the import of specific parts of deer, elk and moose. This is to reduce the risk of introducing chronic wasting disease to the territory.
Prohibited parts would be the head, hide, hooves, spinal cord and internal organs. Exceptions are planned for transboundary First Nation hunters. Hunting lures made from the urine, glands and tissues of these animals would also be banned.
* End the only caribou-cow hunt in the territory, for the Bonnet Plume, Tay and Redstone herds northwest of Mayo. Annual bag limits would be lowered from two animals to one bull. The extended hunting season for the area would also end.
* Extend the bear hunting season from August 1 to June 21. The Teslin Renewable Resources Council wants to be able to shoot bears that are out of their dens in the autumn and winter.
These bears are usually older or unhealthy, the council argues. Currently, hunters may only shoot bears out of season if they pose imminent threat to life or property.
* Change the grizzly bag limit. The Teslin Renewable Resources Council wants hunters to be able to take two grizzly bears in six years, rather than one in three.
This would help rural residents who need to kill a bear in self-defense, so “they may then retain the hide and skull of that bear without further explanation,” states the council.
* Redraw the game management boundaries. Subzones are based on mountains, which makes sense for managing sheep, goats and grizzlies.
Not so much for moose, which dwell in valleys, and consequently end up frequently hopping boundaries. The Teslin Renewable Resources Council wants to see moose-friendly borders drawn up.
Yukoners have until December 8 to submit comments to the board. Forms can be picked up at the board office, or found at www.yfwmb.ca.