Environment Minister John Edzerza has ordered his staff to review the establishment of a no-hunting corridor along Atlin Road.
Monday’s directive follows renewed complaints of hunters shooting from the roadside at grizzly bears that frequent the area to forage on roots during the summer months.
Ken Gabb, who lives along Atlin Road, heard a single rifle blast on Friday evening around 10 p.m. He knew what the hunters had in their crosshairs: two young grizzlies, about three years old. Gabb had watched the pair from the end of his driveway earlier that evening.
Gabb and his wife headed to the road. They found a white Toyota Tundra parked on the roadside and two hunters in the ditch.
As far as the hunters could tell, the shot had missed. The bear hadn’t flinched, they said, and there was no sign of blood, hair or feces.
The hunters apologized for shooting so close to the Gabb’s property. They hadn’t seen the driveway, they said.
But when Gabb returned home, he watched from his second storey window as the same truck cruised up and down the road for the next hour.
This is all too familiar for Gabb. Last summer, hunters shot a young grizzly boar along the same stretch of road. The animal belonged to a family that had become a common enough site along the road. Word got out to Atlin residents and tourists eager to watch the animals from their vehicles.
Hunters heard, too — although Gabb hesitates to use that word to describe men who shoot bears from the road.
“It’s not something that you’d classify as a hunt. It’s an opportunistic slaughter of animals along the highway.”
Shortly after the shooting of the grizzly boar, Gabb helped spark a territorial debate over highway hunting. He urged the government to consider introducing similar rules found in British Columbia, which lies just another 30 kilometres down the road from his home.
There, it’s illegal to discharge a firearm within 15 metres from the centre of the road. That would rule out shooting from ditches.
This isn’t just about gamesmanship. It’s also about public safety. Gabb fears unless highway hunting is curbed, one day a stray bullet will hit someone and result in tragedy.
“No matter which way you skin it, it’s a public-safety issue,” he said.
The Yukon Party listened. Steve Nordick, MLA for the Klondike, introduced a motion last autumn that would have struck an all-party committee to consider such restrictions.
But the Liberals wouldn’t have it. Their two First Nations MLAs, Eric Fairclough and Darius Elias, howled that any restrictions against highway hunting would unfairly impinge upon native hunting rights.
Fairclough warned Nordick he had better be prepared to fight an election over the issue. In the end, the government backed down.
Gabb laments this as “opposition politics” at its worst. “They oppose everything the other party does,” he said of the Liberals.
He didn’t bother to engage in a prolonged debate with the hunters on Friday because, “they’re only doing what the law permits them to do.”
Gabb still hopes the law will change. He’d still prefer to see a BC-style ban on shooting from all two-lane roads, but a no-shooting corridor along Atlin Road, as Edzerza proposes, would be a lot better than nothing.
Contact John Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.