CANMORE – Bow hunting will no longer be permitted on Larch Island thanks to changes made to the province’s bow hunting boundaries.
The province removed Larch Island from the hunting zone on Aug. 1 after residents in the area consistently raised concerns about their safety because hunters would regularly walk through their neighbourhood in camouflage gear while carrying bows during hunting season.
In November there were renewed calls to change the boundaries after Gareth Thomson, an area resident, found a gut pile from a freshly killed female elk close to homes and busy trails near the island.
Residents at the time said they worried remains left behind by hunters could draw carnivores, such as cougars and wolves, into residential neighbourhoods. There was also concern a stray arrow could accidentally injure or kill someone.
“I’m thrilled,” said Gareth Thomson of the changes. “This is a long time coming and most people, when I told them about the situation, those that know how things work in the human-wildlife interface, were frankly incredulous that this situation was in place and had been allowed to remain in place for so long.”
He applauded MLA Cam Westhead and Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips for listening to residents’ concerns and taking action.
“We were approached by both the Town of Canmore and a number of residents with safety concerns,” said Phillips, explaining public feedback was overwhelmingly in support of the changes.
Part of the issue was that Larch Island, which is part of Bow Valley Wildland Park, was located within the Bow corridor wildlife management unit as well as the municipality’s boundaries, allowing bow hunters to legally hunt near residential homes.
Mayor John Borrowman, who began lobbying the former Conservative government several years ago to have Larch Island removed from the hunting zone, warmly welcomed the news.
“I understand that a number of bow hunters may be disappointed by the news, but I think it’s actually very positive in as much as the provincial government has recognized, I think, the valid concerns of the residents that live in the Larch neighbourhood,” said Borrowman.
He said it was great to see the government take action to resolve the issue, which rears up every fall when the bow hunting season starts. This year the bow hunting season begins on Sept. 5 in the local area and will continue until the end of November.
“When I met with Minister Phillips last fall and put this on the agenda she responded in a more direct fashion than other ministers had. In fact, she was quite surprised to learn that bow hunting was permitted so close to a residential neighbourhood.”
In 2011, the town passed a bylaw prohibiting hunting and trapping within the town’s municipal boundaries, including on Larch Island, however, because of the overlap in jurisdiction, the Province’s laws superseded the town’s, allowing bow hunting to continue on the island.
By removing Larch Island from the province’s hunting zone, bow hunters will no longer be allowed to hunt anywhere within the municipality’s boundaries.