Highway hunting debate gears up

No matter where you stand on this divisive question, there will be a chance to express your opinion on Monday evening at a meeting organized by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. It’s from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the High Country Inn.

Should hunters be allowed to shoot grizzly bears along Atlin Road?

No matter where you stand on this divisive question, there will be a chance to express your opinion on Monday evening at a meeting organized by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. It’s from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at the High Country Inn.

The meeting is to discuss eight proposed changes to Yukon’s wildlife regulations. Among them is a plan, floated by Environment Yukon, to introduce a 500-metre, no-hunting corridor on either side of Atlin Road.

Area residents have complained hunters who shoot the bears are unsporting, run the risk of inadvertently shooting a person and send the wrong signal to visiting tourists eager to see wildlife.

Environment Minister John Edzerza told staff to look into such a ban in May, following complaints of more bears being shot along the road.

Ken Gabb, a retired RCMP officer who lives along Atlin Road, has called for an end to highway hunting for two years.

Just 30 kilometres down the road from his house, past the British Columbia border, it’s illegal to discharge a firearm from within 15 metres of the road’s centre. Gabb would like to see similar rules in the Yukon.

He was pleased but “rather surprised” to hear Environment Department was proposing a no-hunting corridor along Atlin Road.

“I had talked to different people in government over the past year, and I thought it was a dead issue.”

Gabb asserts shooting from the roadside is an “inherently dangerous practice,” because of the potential of a stray bullet hitting someone. Hunters are forbidden from shooting within one kilometre of a house, but, in practice, it’s often difficult to know how close a rural residence is that’s hidden behind bush.

Gabb would prefer to see the territory go further. Yukon needs regulations that forbid highway hunting across the territory, he said.

“I don’t have any trouble with secondary roads. But certainly along main thoroughfares of the Yukon, I think they should have a good, hard look at what is accomplished by allowing people to drive down the road and shoot whatever they see in the ditch.”

He describes those who shoot from the roadside “opportunistic slaughterers of wildlife, rather than hunters.”

In the autumn of 2009, the Yukon Party’s Steve Nordick proposed forming an all-party committee to examine issues surrounding highway hunting.

But the Liberals’ two First Nations MLAs, Eric Fairclough and Darius Elias, howled that any restrictions against highway hunting would unfairly impinge upon native hunting rights. So the government backed down.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.

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