‘It’s not really hunting’

It's legal to shoot a grizzly bear ambling along a roadside ditch in the Yukon. But does that make it right? In the mind of Ken Gabb, a retired RCMP officer who lives along Atlin Road, there's little doubt the answer is no.

It’s legal to shoot a grizzly bear ambling along a roadside ditch in the Yukon.

But does that make it right?

In the mind of Ken Gabb, a retired RCMP officer who lives along Atlin Road, there’s little doubt the answer is no, especially when the bear has become accustomed to drivers stopping to take its picture.

“You might as well go to the Calgary Zoo and shoot the animal in the cage, because that’s what’s happening,” he said.

Gabb is not against hunting. He’s shot his share of moose over the years.

But he says a recent incident illustrates how it’s high time to overhaul the territory’s hunting rules.

The bear in question was a young boar, perhaps three or four years old, that had become a common sight between kilometres 18 and 21 of the Atlin Road for the past two weeks.

It, along with a sow with three cubs, foraged by the road for roots with which to fatten up for the long winter ahead.

On Sunday evening, a hunter shot the boar within close proximity to the road.

Fresh scat found along the edge of the ditch suggests to Gabb that’s where the animal had been shot. It’s common for the bowels of animals to loosen when they’ve been shot.

The remains of the animal lay about 30 metres away. Its head, hide, paws and hindquarters had been taken.

Conservation officers investigated and found no evidence of wrongdoing.

But, in BC, there’s a good chance the hunt would have been deemed illegal.

Both here and there, it’s illegal to shoot along or across any road that has at least two lanes. But BC has an additional rule: hunters must stand at least 15 metres away from the road’s centre.

That would rule out shooting animals within roadside ditches.

BC also has no-hunting corridors along numerous sections of road, which prohibit the discharge of firearms within 400 metres of the road.

In the Yukon, the only no-hunting corridor exists near the Takhini Hot Springs.

It’s about time Yukon’s legislatores took a “good hard look” at the territory’s hunting regulations, said Gabb.

Introducing a no-shoot zone along roadsides, as BC has, would be a good start.

He questions how safe any shot along a roadside ditch would be. Bullets travel great distances, and may change trajectory if they ricochet off rocks.

“It’s got to be inherently dangerous,” he said. “Not all bullets go where they’re supposed to go.”

But it’s already illegal to hunt in a dangerous manner, said Kris Gustafson, Yukon’s senior conservation officer.

Reckless hunting carries a maximum penalty of $15,000, or one year imprisonment.

And, in the case of the grizzly that was shot along Atlin Road, Gustafson said there’s “no indication” anything illegal occurred.

But, legal or not, the kill was far from sporting, said Gabb. “It’s not really hunting,” he said.

And it’s not an isolated incident.

Highway hunting, he knows, is “not uncommon” in the territory.

He also knows that any effort to impose greater hunting restrictions is bound be politically divisive.

The Yukon government stopped enforcing its no-hunting corridor along the Dempster Highway in 2007, after the Tr’ondek Hwech’en First Nation threatened the territory with legal action.

The First Nation saw the corridor as an imposition on the constitutionally enshrined rights of its members to hunt.

The territory, reluctant to impose one set of hunting rules on First Nation hunters and another on nonaboriginals, stopped enforcing the corridor.

The Dempster is a popular route for hunters from the Yukon and Northwest Territories to drive along in order to shoot Porcupine caribou.

It’s also along the Dempster, near the Rock River campground, where someone illegally shot a muskox in early September and left the animal to rot.

Gatt isn’t the only one who’s disturbed.

Richard Hartmier, a photographer from Whitehorse, recalls how he recently observed a group of hunters shoot moose near the Dempster Highway while a group of Japanese tourists watched.

“I think it says people here are barbaric,” he said. “Is this becoming the regular way we treat our animals up here?”

“Somebody needs to do the right thing, and it’s up to politicians on both sides of the fence.

“They need to step up.”

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.