A law which explicitly makes night hunting illegal and which adds more regulations to its enforcement has been proclaimed.
“This has been a priority for MWF and our members,” said Manitoba Wildlife Federation in a statement. “Together with all stakeholders and the government, we have made enormous strides.”
As amended, the Wildlife Act reads, “No person shall hunt at night,” and lists behaviours deemed “night hunting.”
A hunter may be deemed to be night hunting if found after daylight directing a light into an area where game is likely to be found, carrying a firearm or with it at the ready, and carrying a firearm that is loaded or where ammunition is close at hand.
Previously the law prohibited hunting 30 minutes before sunrise or after sunset, and prohibited using lights to hunt at night.
The law followed lobbying from Manitoba Wildlife Federation, Keystone Agricultural Producers and others. Bill 29 received royal assent in November 2018 but was not proclaimed into law until October 9 this year.
The lag was the result of developing new regulations around the law, and delays related to COVID-19, said Blaine Pedersen, minister of agriculture and resource development, at an Oct. 9 news conference.
In 2018, Keystone Agricultural Producers welcomed the bill, which addressed a topic on which members had passed resolutions. Then president Dan Mazier, now a Conservative member of Parliament, stressed that farmers saw night hunting as a public safety issue, the Manitoba Co-operator reported.
“KAP members have long been concerned about the issue of night hunting and have called for the practice to be banned,” said KAP in a written statement Oct. 14 of this year. “Several incidents our members have dealt with, including bullets shot through houses and livestock being injured, show that this legislation is needed.
“We want to see adequate and appropriate enforcement of this legislation so that the dangerous practice of night hunting is deterred and rural Manitoba families are safe on their farms,” KAP said.
Indigenous hunters, whose right to hunt is protected by Canadian law, may hunt at night. In southern Manitoba, which the act defines by map as roughly ‘agro Manitoba,’ rights-based hunters will be required to get a permit to night hunt.
The permit, which will be free, will set out the specific area in which the holder can night hunt and any conditions “considered necessary to ensure that the night hunting is carried out safely or to address conservation management objectives,” the law says.
The law adds that in approving permits, the department must consider if the area is a safe distance from homes, areas containing livestock and highways.
In the north, Indigenous hunters may night hunt without a permit provided they stay clear of occupied sites and roads.
The Manitoba Metis Federation already has its own laws in place governing night hunting for Métis people. Enacted in April 2019, the laws include a prohibition on dangerous night spotlighting throughout the province, a ban on night hunting in “agro Manitoba” and permission to night hunt in “non-agro Manitoba.”
The law came after Métis citizens expressed concern about dangerous night hunting practices, MMF said in a news release.
The amended Wildlife Act also establishes the ability for the province to develop a “shared management committee” for designated areas to make recommendations on conservation and wildlife management.
If established, at least half of the committee members must be Indigenous residents of the area, along with at least one member representing hunters, one member representing outfitters, and at least one person who owns land in the designated area (if there is private land in the area).
The law does not explicitly address some farmers’ concerns over hunters on land where their livestock grazes.
In 2018, Manitoba Beef Producers passed a resolution pushing for the province to add a written permission for hunters accessing private land.
Producers have argued that texting and email make it relatively simple to gain written permission, even if a landowner lives on the other end of the province or is away from home.
The new law includes a section which states that “the minister may work with organizations representing hunters and trappers, Aboriginal communities, local governments and other interested parties to promote the granting of written consent by landowners to enable hunting and trapping on private land.”
It does not explicitly prohibit hunting without written permission.
“There are some issues including requiring hunters to have written permission to access farmland that are still outstanding, but our hope is that we can work collaboratively with the provincial government and other stakeholders now that the legislation is proclaimed,” KAP said.