The forthcoming review of roadside hunting will ruffle a few feathers, predicts the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association.
The shooting of a blonde grizzly bear on the Tagish Road in late May ignited a debate over roadside hunting. Residents, who were fond of the bear after seeing it regularly, are upset. But the shooting was legal, since the hunter shot the bear while completely off the road and was more than a kilometre away from residences. Currently, licensed hunters may kill one grizzly every three years.
Similar complaints have been prompted by bears being shot along Atlin Road. In response to all this, Environment Minister Currie Dixon has asked the Yukon Wildlife Management Board to form a working group to address roadside hunting in the territory.
“I think the board will have their hands full on this one,” said Gord Zealand, executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which has a membership of around a thousand Yukoners. “I don’t envy them,” he added.
The ethics of roadside hunting depend on the circumstances, said Zealand.
He makes a distinction between small and big game. “There’s a lot of First Nations elders that may shoot gophers, they may shoot grouse, etc. along various road ways,” he said.
Location also matters, said Zealand, such as how close the shooting is to a residential area. Hunting within a kilometre of a residence is already illegal, and shooting from remote roads doesn’t run the risk of bothering residents.
“If you’re talking about a road that maybe services the mining industry in the Dawson area, are you going to ban shooting grouse from that road?” asked Zealand.
As a hunter for meat, Zealand does not kill bears at all. But he’s worried that the regulations would create a slippery slope. “Does that mean that if someone gets off the road and walks back a certain distance or whatever and shoots a moose on the way to Ross River, that’s illegal?”
The fish and game association supports restrictions that are needed to conserve animal populations, said Zealand. For example, if there are few grizzly bears left in the area, he would agree with a hunting ban. “End of story, doesn’t matter if it’s roadside or not, and that makes sense, he said.
Ultimately, Zealand said it’s up to the hunter to use common sense.
There is one situation that the association deems black and white. Asked if the association agrees with the idea of “fair chase,” or allowing the game time to run or escape, Zealand agreed. “There’s not many members who would stand up and say well I don’t believe in that. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone say that,” he said.
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