The Province is taking action to protect big game wildlife in areas severely affected by wildfires; and Ken Brown, vice-president of the South Cariboo Sportsman’s Association, says that as a conservationist he thinks it’s a great idea.
The Province has recently implemented two motor vehicle restrictions under the Wildlife Act, to protect wildlife populations in danger from increased motor vehicle access and loss of vegetation in areas impacted by the wildfires. Two areas of the Cariboo region will also be closed to moose hunting for the October 15 to 31 and November 1 to 15 seasons.
Brown, an avid hunter, has already seen at first-hand the impact the fires have had on animal habitat. “In the past, with all the trees, animals had cover. Now you can see for hundreds of yards in places you couldn’t before.
“And there’s very little wild game out there. They were either killed in the fires, or they’ve moved on to areas where they have food, cover, and bedding areas.”
He explains that under the changes to the Wildlife Act, ATV and UTV users in the Elephant Hill wildfire region cannot take their vehicles off-road or create roads where none currently exist. While they can hunt from the road, or venture out on foot, they cannot use their vehicles to go off-road to retrieve any game.
“I’ll go to different areas [to hunt],” says Brown, “but this impacts locals and First Nations immensely. Sport hunters harvest game for our own needs; but some people sustain their families with game.”
He says that the deer population is definitely down in number, even in places such as the Merritt area, which did not suffer wildfire damage. “It’s been a very dry summer, so that’s had an impact.”
He notes, however, that some deer closer to home appear to know how to keep safe. “I saw two bucks and a doe in one of the Desert Hills fields near Cache Creek. The peppers had been harvested, but the deer were in there eating what was left. They’d obviously read the [Hunting and Trapping Regulations] synopsis, and knew they were safe,” he laughs.
Of the ban on moose hunting in the Cariboo, he says “It’s a great idea. It’s really moosey country, so I can understand why they’ve done this. They need to let the moose population come back.”
He is not impressed, however, with the recent announcement from the Province stating that grizzly bear trophy hunting has been banned, allowing hunters to harvest the meat and nothing else.
“It’s a political play, as far as I’m concerned. Very few people eat grizzly bear meat due to the fact that it’s a trophy animal. If I were to go after a grizzly I’d harvest the meat as well, as a hunter. Now you’ll just get hunters who want to harvest the meat, and very few want to do that.”
He notes that B.C. residents—the ones most likely to hunt for meat—pay $80 for a grizzly tag. Anyone from out of province who wants a tag pays $800; and these are the trophy hunters.
“The game guides and the province make money from these tags, and this helps wildlife, as the fees for the hunt of that animal help pay for its habitat. And an area cannot sustain too many animals. If there’s too big a population and not enough food, Mother Nature takes care of it. The animals will die because of hunger or disease.
“A hunter up north said there are more and more grizzlies than ever, and this will lead to more grizzly bear-human encounters. Hunters are a management tool. As a hunter, I’d rather take care of things with a quick bullet rather than a lingering death from starvation or disease.
“It infuriates me when politicians get involved with wildlife. It’s not always for the benefit of the species involved.”
The restrictions on motor vehicles within the area of the Elephant Hill fire in the Thompson Region will be in effect from September 1 to December 10, 2017. A map is available online at http://ow.ly/qdZF30fxfK2.
The restrictions on motor vehicles also affect all land within the Chilcotin Plateau and Hanceville-Riske Creek fires, except designated highways and mainline forestry roads, and also run from September 1 to December 10, 2017. A map is online at http://ow.ly/oqNr30fxfPM.
The restrictions are expected to be in place until access and visibility conditions return to a state where wildlife are less vulnerable. These new restrictions do not apply to First Nations exercising Aboriginal rights to hunt.
Zones A and C of management unit 5-13 in the Cariboo contain high-quality moose habitat that was severely affected by the Chilcotin Plateau Fire. In addition, the area is important to First Nations for sustenance hunting.
Closure of these zones applies to all licensed hunting, including resident and guided hunters. The moose hunting closure is for an area immediately north of Highway 20 and west of Williams Lake and Quesnel. A map of Zones A, B, and C of management unit 5-13 can be accessed online at http://bit.ly/2fYwJYF.
The areas impacted by this ban will be assessed over the winter to determine what levels of sustainable hunting opportunity will be available in the coming years.