Changes called for after elk guts found

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A gut pile from a freshly killed elk close to residential homes and busy trails near Larch Island has renewed calls for the Alberta government to change provincial hunting boundaries in Canmore.

While the hunters did nothing illegal and are thought to have cleaned up the elk remains the next day, the Town of Canmore and residents of the Larch neighbourhood are calling on the province to remove Larch Island from the bowhunting zone.

On Nov. 14, area resident Gareth Thomson said a gut pile from a cow elk was left behind by two hunters about five metres off a popular trail in the Larch area, on the north side of the Bow River near Canmore golf course.

He said he spoke with the hunters, who had wounded the elk with an arrow a few hundred metres away – on Larch Island – from where she finally dropped; then they gutted it where it died.

“Hunters can legally bow hunt less than two hundred metres from my home in the Larch suburb. This is madness,” said Thomson, noting many residents share his concern.

“It is only a matter of time before someone is mauled by a bear or attacked by another large carnivore as it protects a gut pile, or before someone is killed by a stray arrow.”

Thomson commended the response of local provincial wildlife managers, but fears the same situation could happen again anytime during bowhunting season, which runs September through November.

Specifically, he said, residents want hunting prohibited on Larch Island, which is perilously close to trails and areas regularly used by dog walkers, children, residents and other recreationalists.

“This whole problem will disappear forever on the day that the province of Alberta changes the lines on the map,” said Thomson, noting this is not about being anti-hunting. “There are lots of hunting areas in Alberta.”

Canmore is a unique community where bowhunting is permitted in areas under the province’s jurisdiction, which overlap with municipal boundaries.

Canmore’s hunting and trapping bylaw prohibits hunting within town boundaries, however, this is in conflict with the provincial legislation, which effectively renders the town bylaw ineffective.

Residents in the Larch area have consistently raised concerns with the Town of Canmore, particularly when hunters are seen walking through their neighbourhood in camouflage gear and carrying bows.

Mayor John Borrowman said he began lobbying the former Conservative government at the ministerial level several years ago to have Larch Island taken out of the hunting zone, but so far to no avail.

He said the only resulting changes include new signage posted on Larch Island and an agreement between the province and municipality to work more closely together to monitor the island to remove carcasses in a timely manner.

Following last week’s incident, Borrowman said he talked to provincial officials in Canmore and Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead about moving these discussions forward.

Depending on how those talks move forward, he said he may end up taking the matter to Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips.

While there are other hunting areas of concern around Canmore, Borrowman said he is specifically asking for Larch Island to be removed from the hunting zone.

“All we’re asking is that the island be pulled out of the boundary because it’s so immediately adjacent to a highly busy residential neighbourhood,” he said.

“It seems to me a no-brainer because it’s a bad idea all around to have hunting there.”

Jay Honeyman, a human-wildlife conflict specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks and Environment, said having animal carcasses close to residential areas is a public safety concern.

“The potential for drawing in animals like large carnivores is there,” he said.

Honeyman said there are many similar instances each year during hunting season, noting they are not restricted only to Larch Island.

“I can think of times when a wounded animal died in the vicinity of Quarry Lake or at the golf course during hunting season and those areas butt up to where hunting is allowed,” he said. “It’s not restricted to Larch Island, but certainly it’s an issue there.”

Honeyman said officers work hard to manage the situation every hunting season, noting it’s an ongoing concern.

“It would be nice if every animal dropped where it was shot, but this is not the real world,” he said.

“When this happens, we try to either remove the attractant or close the area, and historically we’ve done both.”

In last week’s incident, Honeyman said an animal could have been attracted to the smell of blood, but the remains of the elk were not enough keep a carnivore in that area.

“The bigger issue is if an animal was there for a longer period of time,” he said. “Carnivores could be there for days on end and wanting to defend it.”

A spokesperson for Alberta Environment and Parks did not get back to the Outlook by deadline regarding the issue of changes to the bowhunting boundary.

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Rocky Mountain Outlook