The provincial government is proposing to shorten the white-tailed doe hunt to 10 days next hunting season within some specific regions — or eliminate it entirely in others — within the Kootenays.
The current regulations allow for an antlerless hunt between Oct. 10-31 in much of the region, however, proposed changes in some Management Units (MUs) will see the window shorten to Oct. 21-31, while white-tailed doe hunts in other MUs are eliminated entirely.
“Recent harvest estimates from 2018 became available and these results were consistent with previous years data pointing to a precipitous decline in harvest in the West Kootenays,” reads the section of a report outlining the rationale for the proposed changes.
“Harvest did not change substantially in the East Kootenay between 2017 and 2018, but observations from aerial surveys and anecdotal reports suggest a decline in abundance in the East Kootenay.”
In the West Kootenay, white-tailed buck harvests are down by more than 50 per cent between 2017-2018 and are 60 per cent below the 30 year average, according to the report. It also noted that recent harsh winters, as with ones in the late 1990s, contributed to substantial population declines.
“Removing the white-tailed deer antlerless GOS (General Open Season) in the West Kootenay may reduce mortality pressures on the population and may allow for a faster recovery. MU’s with a large proportion of the zone falling within the range of Mountain Caribou range would retain the antlerless season to help meet caribou recovery objectives. Hunters will still be able to harvest antlerless deer during the youth season and the December archery only season.”
In the East Kootenay, the report proposes to modify the antlerless season dates to address enforcement challenges that are present during a 10-day overlap of the six-point elk season and white-tailed deer antlerless season.
Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka, who had called for a two-year moratorium on the antlerless white-tailed doe hunt, said that while the West Kootenay region is closed to the antlerless hunt, it may push for an over-harvet in the East Kootenay, where some MUs remain open with shorter seasons.
“I think they’re avoiding the real issue, and the real issue is we don’t have the numbers,” said Shypitka. “We really don’t know what’s out there, and to have a hunt at all — a general open season — is a spit in the face to those conservationalists and hunters out there who see the real danger of our populations being wiped out.”
The proposed changes to the antlerless white-tailed hunt are just one of many initiatives being examined by the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.
One significant proposal includes cancelling all antlerless elk Limited Entry Hunt (LEH) opportunities across Region 4, as survey results from the East Kootenay Trench in 2018 suggest elk populations are 32 per cent below targets.
Additionally, a proposal suggests shortening the bull elk season in the West Kootenay, while also removing some MUs from the General Open Season. Some MUs will remain a six-point bull elk hunt from Sept. 10 – Oct. 20th, however, other MUs will have a shortened season from Sept. 10 – Oct. 5.
The report notes that much of the bull elk harvest happens after Oct. 5th, so by shortening the season, it would reduce harvest levels to maintain the current bull/cow ratio, which averages 20 bulls to 100 cows.
Another proposal would prohibit the intentional feeding and baiting of ungulates (deer, elk, moose) in the Kootenay region, due to concerns about transmission of infectious parasites, as well as potential for digestive tract upsets.
In recent winters, local conservation groups have received funding to set up feeding stations to help the elk population survive the harsh seasons.
Shypitka said he sees both sides of the issue in that the elk need help surviving those winters, but noted concerns about the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), which has been detected at the U.S. and Alberta borders.
“It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when we’re going to see CWD come into our province, and feeding programs such as the ones we’ve seen could impact the spread of CWD,” said Shypitka. “…My only question is when you put an outright ban on something like that, the question is what’s going to happen when we have a killer winter — something brutal — what’s the plan in place to assist the dying wildlife that are starving to death?
“It’s not a pretty sight when you see elk herds collapse due to starvation. What then?”
Other proposed changes include opening up turkey hunting opportunities and increasing the bag limit, closing the wolverine trapping season, creating LEH sub-zones for bighorn sheep hunting in Bull River and removing compulsory inspection for wolf.
Shypitka reiterated his desire to see the provincial government develop a proper wildlife management strategy.
“We put a value on coal, we put a value on our timber, we put a value on our agriculture, but we don’t put a value on our wildlife,” Shypitka said. “That’s just not right, it’s supernatural British Columbia. That’s why we live here, that’s why we stay here.”
In addition to regulations impacting wildlife, there are also some restrictions to that impact firearms, as one such proposal banning scopes on crossbows.
Shypitka called the ban ‘discriminatory’ to older hunters who may need to use a crossbow scope and worried that without a scope, crossbow hunters might not be able to make accurate shots at long distances.
“I don’t know what taking away the scope on a crossbow really accomplishes,” said Shypitka.
The proposals also include a number of changes and tweaks to motor vehicle access in certain MUs across the Kootenays.
All proposed hunting changes can be viewed here and are being targeted for 2020-2022.