With the hunting season in the Lac La Biche area in full swing, Fish and Wildlife officers and a few Wandering River residents are seeing more and more hunters breaking provincial hunting regulations.
Starting last week, the hunting season has seen a wave of hunters mostly from the Fort McMurray area come to the Wandering River hamlet, producing more complaints than usual of hunters trespassing on private property.
“Even if the people aren’t regular hunters, there are general rules that need to be followed while hunting,” said Kerry Rudneski, the District Fish and Wildlife Officer.
Many hunters wander off the Crown land that surrounds Wandering River and onto private land, without the permission of the residences.
“As residents and landowners, we are not against hunting. We just feel that current hunting policy needs improvement. Many landowners feel we are being forced to deal with more hunters than we can safely accommodate,” said Guy Parent, a Wandering River resident. “It’s an important issue for all residents, because it involves resident safety.”
Current regulations state specifically that hunters must have permission and Section 38 of Alberta Wildlife Act currently “specifies that no person shall hunt wildlife or discharge firearms on or over occupied lands, or enter onto such lands for the purpose of doing so without the consent of the owner or occupant,” but residents say the regulations doesn’t stop hunters from trespassing.
“Many people in the area are saying that the problems are worse than they ever remember,” said Parent.
There have been cases in the past of hunters night hunting, shooting from their vehicle and vandalising private property, according to wildlife officials.
Rudneski says that part of the problem is that most hunters are unaware of the implications of hunting on private land but that they should be smart about it.
“Most of it is common sense- don’t do anything illegal, like shooting from the road or inside a vehicle,” he said.
Local Fish and Wildlife officers are continuously patrolling the area with the help of wildlife officers from Fort McMurray. A few hunters have already been charged with hunting violations in the past two weeks.
Fines for hunters who violate regulations can range anywhere from $115 for firing a loaded firearm from a vehicle to jail time for a conviction to more serious hunting offenses.
“There needs to be an increased awareness that hunting season is upon us and we need to be careful,” said Rudneski.
Wildlife officers are also reminding people to get the proper licenses for larger wildlife and to know where they can hunt.
With hunters in wooded areas, local RCMP are also reminding drivers to be careful when traveling in remote areas since wildlife is now on the move.
RCMP have had several reports in the past few weeks from drivers who have struck an animal and police are reminding people to slow down, especially at nighttime.
Wildlife officers ask that anyone with information about hunters to call the Report-a-Poacher number at 1-800-642-3800 to file a complaint.