By Simon Ducatel
Fish and Wildlife officials are looking for information that could lead them to those responsible for recent poaching offences.
The first incident occurred on March 27, when the remains of an elk were discovered at kilometre 22 on the YaHa Tinda Road west of Sundre.
Located on private land, the road is considered a wildlife corridor, which does not allow for the discharge of firearms within 365 metres of the centre of the road.
The corridor is 26.5 kilometres long, starting at the Red Deer River bridge at the Mountain Air Lodge and continuing up YaHa Tinda Road to the ranch, said District Fish and Wildlife officer Adam Mirus.
It is not known whether the poached elk was a bull or a cow, he said.
“There is no elk season on right now, of course,” said Mirus.
Calving season is approaching, before and during which time there are no permits to hunt elk awarded, he said.
“When they’re shooting one elk, they’re shooting two,” he said about poachers.
Aggravating the offence are several factors — it happened on private land, it’s not elk season and the shot was fired in the wildlife corridor on the road, he said.
Although it’s not certain, the poacher might possibly have fired from a vehicle.
“A bullet travelling down the road, that’s dangerous,” he said.
Other motorists using the road don’t expect a bullet to go whizzing by or even strike their vehicle, he said.
With a case such as this one, these aggravating factors mean more serious consequences, he said.
Poachers in such situations — hunting illegally and recklessly on private land — could face up to $50,000 per offence, or a maximum of two years in jail, he said.
“It seems to happen every spring,” he said, adding there are usually several instances of poaching in a year.
“It’s stealing a resource from all of us,” he said about poaching.
The elk population hasn’t exactly been thriving, and there hasn’t been a cow elk season in this area in some 10 years, he said.
And there are a limited number of tags available for bull elk. To get a tag, hunters must enter a provincial hunting draw process, after which it takes as many as 10-12 years to get drawn, he said.
The most recent poaching offence took place on March 31 more than a kilometre southeast of Bowden along Rge. Rd. 108 immediately north of Twp. Rd. 342, he said.
A member of the public came across 80 pounds of discarded meat, said the Fish and Wildlife officer.
“We know from looking at it that it’s deer meat,” he said.
“It should have been used by whoever harvested the animal, but instead they threw it away,” he said, encouraging anyone who might have seen the responsible party dump the meat to contact Fish and Wildlife.
Not only is poaching an offence, but so is wasting wildlife or allowing it to become unfit for human consumption, he said.
While any information from the public is good, specific details — pictures, vehicle descriptions, licence plate numbers — help the most, he said, stressing the importance of reporting infractions sooner rather than later.
Officials are asking anyone with possible leads about these incidents to contact the Sundre Fish and Wildlife office at 403-638-3805 or the Report-A-Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800.
Callers can remain anonymous and might be eligible for a cash reward worth up to $2,000.
“We need that information as soon as possible,” he said, adding some incidents go unreported for a week or more. That’s often in part because of bad cellphone coverage, but people who spot poachers or their kills are asked to report them as soon as possible.
Fish and Wildlife has also recently launched a Facebook page, and anyone who’s interested in following its activities can check out www.facebook.com/AlbertaFishandWildlifeEnforcement.