Environment Yukon retracts some hunting permits after error, will draw again

Mistake affects 230 hunting permits for sheep, caribou, moose and sheep for 2018-19 season

Environment Yukon has redrawn all sheep, caribou, moose and goat hunting permits for the 2018-19 season after the discovery of an error in its lottery’s weighting system forced it to retract 230 permits it issued earlier this month.

Of the 230 affected permits, 115 were for sheep, 74 for caribou, 38 for moose and three for goat. The department notified hunters selected to receive the permits from the corrected lottery July 10.

Environment Yukon issued the original permits July 3. The department issued notices to hunters July 5 about the retractions and redraw.

The error that lead to the retraction was related to the hunting permit lottery’s weighting system, Environment Yukon spokesperson Roxanne Stasyszyn said in an interview July 6.

When hunters enter the lottery, they’re assigned a weighting, which corresponds to the number of times they’ve unsuccessfully applied for a permit (first-time hunters receive a weighting of one). The weighting is then increased to the power of seven to calculate the number of times a hunter’s name is entered into the lottery, meaning that, the longer hunters are unsuccessful in the lottery, the higher their chances are to get a permit the following year since they receive more entries.

At the same time, hunters who are selected to receive permits have their weightings reduced back down to one the next time they apply for the lottery. Hunters who receive permits but return them before a stated deadline maintain their weightings for the next year. Those returned permits are then reissued to other hunters who applied during that same year. Hunters who accept reissued permits also have their weightings reduced back to one for the next lottery they enter.

Information about permit returns and reissues are manually entered into Environment Yukon’s database, Stasyszyn said. This time, the information for the 2017-18 returns and reissues was not entered properly. That meant that for the 2018-19 draw, hunters who had returned permits last year were entered into the lottery with a weighting of one, when they should have kept their previous weighting. And hunters who accepted reissued permits kept their weightings from last year instead of receiving a weighting of one.

Permits for deer, elk and Kluane sheep were not affected by the error.

While the department has historically handled the lottery itself, this year, for the first time, the work was contracted out to the Yukon Bureau of Statistics.

Environment Yukon realized there had been an error, Stasyszyn said, after the permits were issued and officials noticed that some people who received hunting permits last season also got them this season for the same species, something that’s statistically unlikely to occur.

“We sincerely regret this error and any confusion or inconvenience or frustration that (it) may have and likely did cause hunters,” Statsyszyn said. “We appreciate the hunting season is fast-approaching and we working with the Bureau of Statistics to ensure that successful permit recipients for this season are notified as soon as possible…. The choice was a difficult one, I can say that much, but in order to ensure fairness for all applicants, the decision was made to re-draw.”

In email following the interview, Stasyszyn wrote that this is the first time a redraw has happened.

“It is a significant measure to ensure public trust in the lottery and to ensure fairness and transparency for all applicants,” she wrote.

In an interview July 9, Yukon Fish & Game Association executive director Gordon Zealand said he’s heard from a number of frustrated hunters about the situation.

“How do you deal with something when you know there’s been a mistake? Well, obviously you have to correct it…. It’s just that everybody’s frustrated by the time-crunch that we’re going to get caught in,” he said, noting that the hunting season opens Aug. 1.

Upon receiving their original permits, Zealand said that some hunters immediately began making plans, including arranging transportation to their sites or going on trips to scout out locations to set up camp or hiking trails.

Now, those hunters don’t know if the time, money and effort they put into planning amount to anything, he explained. As well, hunters who receive permits this time around will still have 10 days to return them. Zealand said he’s heard concerns about how much time hunters who receive reissued permits will have to put their trips together.

“People are upset, people are unhappy.… You’re caught in a real state of just not knowing,” he said. “That’s about as nicely as I can put it.”

In a press release July 10, the Yukon Party said MLA Wade Istchenko had written a letter to Environment Minister Pauline Frost last year asking her to “launch an independent audit of the permit hunt lottery system to address and prevent issues such as what has occurred last week.”

“Unfortunately the minister has been missing in action all summer on a number of key issues throughout her portfolios including several hunting issues,” Istchenko said in the statement. “It’s time for the minister to step up and start giving some answers to Yukoners.… With these most recent issues there is no better time to start an independent audit to ensure the system is serving Yukon hunters fairly and that these errors don’t happen in the future.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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