Minister weighs in on larch Island hunting boundary

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Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Philips has met with Canmore Mayor John Borrowman amid concerns over bow hunting on Larch Island and ongoing calls to remove the area from the hunting zone.

Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead was also at the table, and he is now gathering public input until Dec. 31 on possible changes to hunting boundaries in time for the 2018-19 hunting season.

Phillips said she is interested in examining options.

“I came and heard certain perspective from the Town and that is a lot of community members are concerned about this. There’s public safety and other concerns at issue here,” she told Mountain FM.

“If the community really does have a serious concern about Larch Island bow hunting, then we do have an ability to do something about it, and to make some changes starting next year.”

A gut pile from a freshly killed female elk found close to residential homes and busy trails near Larch Island Nov. 14 renewed calls for a change to the provincial bow hunting zone.

The fear is remains left behind by hunters could draw carnivores, such as bears and wolves, into residential neighbouthoods. There’s also concern a stray arrow could accidentally injure or kill someone.

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

Mayor John Borrowman 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.

In this most recent case, resident Gareth Thomson raised the alarm when he saw the gut pile about five metres off a popular trail in the Larch area, on the north side of the Bow River near Canmore golf course.

Bow hunting is allowed at the location September through November. Hunters did nothing illegal and the elk remains were devoured by scavengers, including ravens.

Westhead is running a Facebook survey on the issue.

“I want to hear from the community as to whether this is a change you support,” he said. “To date I’ve heard from a small number of people in the Larch area, but I’d like to hear from the broader community too.”

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Rocky Mountain Outlook