Controversy in Alberta over Proposed Wildlife Regulations

By Julia King

Mule Deer Herd
Image Credit: Gary Zahm, USFWS

Alberta’s wildlife regulations — rules that support the Wildlife Act in managing the province’s wildlife — are set to expire on June 30, 2015, and proposed revisions by the Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Ministry are generating controversy.

For instance, ministry officials have proposed to allow four new species of birds, Aplomado Falcon (Falco femoralis), Eurasian Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus), Saker Falcon (Falco cherrug), and Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus), to be used for falconry — a move that has stimulated controversy because three of the four species to be added are non-native species in Alberta. Opponents to the proposal argue that use of non-native species could lead to hybridization among species and potentially spread of disease if the trained birds escape.

Also under the proposed regulations, dogs would be allowed to accompany big game hunters. Currently big game hunters in Alberta are not allowed to take a dog on a hunt unless they’re hunting cougars. Although proposed regulations would not allow dogs to pursue big game while they are in the field, they can be used as pack animals. Some Albertans worry that the dogs will be used to track game illegally if allowed to be in the field during a hunt.

Further, restrictions on off-road vehicle use would be removed, generating discussion over potential disturbances to the landscape and fair chase considerations. Additional changes liberalizing the kinds of tools allowed to be used have further raised concerns about fair chase and the preservation of hunting traditions in the province.

The Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development Ministry has created a confidential survey for Albertans to share their feedback on proposed revisions to the regulations. Albertans can also contribute to the discussion online on three of the proposed revisions; the number of landowner special licenses, allowing companion dogs when hunting big game, and falconry regulations. The Alberta Wildlife Regulations are open for comment until December 15, 2014.

Sources Calgary Herald (November 15, 2014), MindMixer