A small delegation of western Manitoba municipal leaders returned from a meeting in Winnipeg last week saying the province needs to fast track the consultations it promises to hold on night hunting.
A six-member group of western leaders met with Sustainable Development Minister Cathy Cox and staff January 24.
They were disappointed to hear only that the province is organizing these discussions to search for a solution, said Scott Phillips, a councillor in the RM of Sifton. The minister also did not say that the province will outrightly ban night hunting. A Supreme Court of Canada ruling allows indigenous hunters to hunt at night.
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Phillips said leaders are frustrated that these discussions aren’t further along already.
“They’re dragging their heels. They keep telling us it’s on the top of their list. Then do it,” he said. “We didn’t get the feeling that they’ve put pen to paper yet or that they’ve even contacted these groups.”
Archie McPherson, reeve of the RM of Pipestone, said he agrees these meetings must take place, but also said he thinks the province isn’t acting quickly enough to get them going.
“Everyone should be consulted, but time is of the essence,” he said. “We were calling for this a year ago.”
The public remains at risk and big game populations will continue to decline in their area the longer this takes, he said.
“If the hunting practices continue as they are there aren’t going to be any moose left in the southwest area,” he said.
McPherson said western leaders will wait to see what happens next, but if this drags on they may seek legal advice about drafting a bylaw banning night hunting in southwestern Manitoba themselves.
“We’re going to hope that the province would take the necessary steps in the meantime to avoid us having to do that,” he said.
Municipal leaders have asked the province to make it illegal for all hunters to shoot at night, restrict hunting of moose in southwestern Manitoba for five years so populations can rebound, and make hunter education available in public school curriculums.
The matter of shooting at night was in the news again last week after a Rivers-area farmer reported discovering one of their pregnant cows dead from a bullet hole through her eye. The carcass wasn’t cold when found that afternoon leading the family to believe it had been shot sometime that morning while the region was covered in thick fog. Images of the dead animal were widely circulated on social media.
The province released statistics last month of receiving 245 reports of night hunting or dangerous hunting in 2016, and an additional 164 reports of hunting on private land without permission. There were an additional nine reports of hunting in a conservation closure area.
Minister Cox said the government is taking the issue seriously and cited how stepped-up enforcement activities by Conservation last year resulted in 44 charges of night hunting and five for dangerous hunting laid. In 2015 there were 25 night hunting charges laid.
In addition, vehicle seizures increased from five in 2015 to 14 in 2016, plus a variety of firearms, including high-powered rifles and shotguns, were seized in the course of officers laying charges.
An enforcement blitz by conservation officers last October in eastern Manitoba resulted in charges being laid against eight hunters as well as the seizure of four vehicles, multiple weapons and various hunting equipment.
The minister said a public awareness campaign will be launched in the first quarter of 2017 and stepped-up enforcement efforts will continue throughout 2017.
Cox was given a mandate last spring to “curtail unsustainable and unsafe hunting practices such as night hunting.”
She told reporters last week that the Manitoba government is in the process of organizing the consultations.
“We look forward to meeting with leaders in the coming months to hear all sides of the issue and work toward a solution based on the safety of all Manitobans and the sustainability of our wildlife populations,” she said.