Environment moves to ban bear hunt on Atlin Road

The change, now under consideration by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, would ban the hunting of grizzlies and black bears within the cleared right-of-way on either side of the highway.

Environment Yukon has put forward a proposal to end bear hunting along Atlin Road.

The change, now under consideration by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, would ban the hunting of grizzlies and black bears within the cleared right-of-way on either side of the highway.

Environment cited conservation, safety and ethical concerns with the hunt, and added that it interferes with bear viewing opportunities along the road.

The Southern Lakes region is an area of concern when it comes to bear conservation, said Nancy Campbell, spokesperson for Environment Yukon.

“The biologist noted that bears that frequent highway corridors currently have a higher mortality rate than other bears,” she said.

Three grizzlies and nine black bears were harvested during the 2011-2012 season in Game Management Zone 9, which encompasses the Atlin Road and most of the Southern Lakes region.

Furthermore, the bears in that region develop the skills they need to live in close proximity to humans, said Campbell. When they are harvested, the bears that move in don’t have those skills, and that could lead to conflict with humans.

Some area residents have concerns with the ethics of hunting bears from the roadway.

Ken Gabb, a retired RCMP officer who lives along the Atlin Road, has spoken out against the hunt for years.

“I don’t believe it’s necessary to shoot animals in the highway corridor,” said Gabb. “I don’t believe that’s hunting. Highways are there for the movement of people and vehicles.”

He often sees vehicles cruising up and down the road looking for animals to hunt.

Often, in their hurry to shoot at a bear, they won’t know if they’ve hit it or not and they rarely follow the animal if it runs off in to bush, he said.

A wounded animal might die a slow and painful death, or could pose a threat to nearby residents, said Gabb.

Gabb also cited safety concerns with hunting occurring along the roadside. Although it is illegal to shoot across a roadway, a hunter could mistakenly shoot towards the road as they track an animal, or a bullet could ricochet into oncoming traffic, he said.

A study has shown that bear viewing, including wildlife photography, is of greater economic value than bear hunting, said Campbell.

In 2010 Environment proposed a 500 metre no-hunting corridor along the Atlin Road, but the wildlife board rejected the change.

“That apparently didn’t get a lot of support,” said Campbell.

“Certainly there was a greater public interest around managing bears and restricting bear hunting along the Atlin Road.”

The Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board will accept public comments on the proposed bear hunting ban on the Atlin Road, and other proposed changes to the Wildlife Act, until Nov. 30.

An online survey is available at the board’s website. Comments will also be accepted by mail, email or fax.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com