A hunter views some animals through his rifle’s scope during a Yukon hunting trip in 2017. Kwanlin Dün First Nation is asking visitors to the Fish Lake area to wear high visible clothing and to stay on established trails to avoid clashing with hunters. (Jordon Carey/Yukon News file)

Kwanlin Dün asks hikers to limit their use of the Fish Lake trail

‘It’s getting harder and harder to hunt in peace.’

The peak hunting season and an inundation of sightseers near Fish Lake is a “clashing of rights,” said a hunter from Kwanlin Dün First Nation, adding that a committee should be created to hash out parameters.

“(W)here we work together to come up with some recommended laws that Kwanlin Dün and the Yukon could draw from,” said Rick O’Brien, who was at a hunting camp in the area when the News interviewed him.

“Just to make everybody’s life easier, not just ours.”

The First Nation put out a public safety announcement this week, asking visitors to respect the ongoing traditional hunt by limiting their use of trails in the area before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Ancillary to this is wearing high-visibility clothing and ensuring dogs are on leashes.

A popular, well-worn trail leading up to a ridgeline falls within settlement land entirely owned by the First Nation, where its citizens have subsurface and surface rights.

It’s this area that’s under pressure from visitors.

“It’s overrun by ATV trails, fat bikes, skidoo trails, mining roads, horseback riding — you name it,” O’Brien said. “It’s just gonna get worse over the years, so we gotta figure out how we can strike up a positive end result, where we all share what the Yukon has to offer, right?” O’Brien noted that he doesn’t go to Hawaii for vacation: he goes out on the land to pull a harvest.

There are no designated campgrounds, O’Brien said, meaning no designated place to go to the bathroom.

“It’s getting harder and harder to hunt in peace,” he said.

Elder Ed Cletheroe said high volumes of visitors have forced out hunters in some areas.

“They sort of infringe on our rights. We are out there practicing our culture, going out and doing some harvesting, then, all of a sudden, we run into people who’re just wandering around, and we could be stalking animals,” he said.

O’Brien chimed in to illustrate.

“Here we are, right, in a campsite, calling moose, and then we hear some noise behind us, and here’s a group of hikers coming over the hill to greet us, take our pictures. This makes it difficult for us,” he said.

This is the first time the First Nation has publicly released such a notice, said lands operations manager Brandy Mayes, noting that some hikers have placed calls to conservation officers about gunshots, unaware that the hunters are exercising their subsistence harvesting rights.

“The citizens are feeling frustrated that there are so many hikers out there, that they cannot hunt.” On Sept. 16 there were 160 visitors in the area, she said.

As a further safety precaution, Mayes said that if people want to enter the area, they shouldn’t stray from designated trails, where visibility is poor.

The point of announcement is to establish a safe, mutually beneficial multi-purpose area, she said.

“We’re not trying to stop anybody, we’re not saying anybody can’t go out there,” Mayes said.

O’Brien and Cletheroe have a conciliatory approach. They have learned to push down their frustrations over the years, they said, and instead acknowledge and respect the enjoyment of others.

“We recognize they have a right to be walking around and taking pictures of these wild games and stuff, too. We want to respect that. We want to respect each others’ rights,” O’Brien said.

“We’ve always wanted to be good neighbours with everybody. We don’t ask for too much in return.”

Contact Julien Gignac at

julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

Correction: This story has been updated to correctly reflect when hunters are being asked to avoid the area.

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