Residents calling for stricter hunting regulations

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MD of Foothills residents are looking for help to mitigate safety concerns over hunting and private shooting ranges.

A Millarville-area woman wrote two letters to MD council requesting support and action to change regulations around hunting and shooting, which were brought up for discussion at its public meeting Jan. 24.

The resident raised four main concerns: shooting on undeveloped road allowances, increasing setbacks to 200 metres from a fence line rather than a dwelling and 200 metres from the centre line of any road, and getting stronger regulations for private shooting ranges.

Coun. Jason Parker presented the concerns on the resident’s behalf and said it’s not the first time he’s heard about the issues from residents.

“Basically over the last four years I’ve received a lot of concerns from residents out in the west side of my division and Suzanne (Oel, councillor) has as well, with regards to shooting and hunting,” said Parker. “Some of the people coming out to shoot weren’t necessarily following all the rules or being safe, which has led to interactions with some of the residents and some close calls, which has escalated to fear for some of the landowners out that way.”

That was the case for another resident in the Priddis area, who had a scary experience on her acreage. She has asked to remain anonymous due to personal safety concerns.

“I have horses and I was going out to do chores by the barn, and when I was up there a bullet went zinging right past my head,” she said. “I heard it. I couldn’t tell you how close it was, but it was too close for comfort.”

She hid and peeked around the corner to see whether she could see the shooter, since it sounded as though the shot had come from near her house. Two more rifle shots followed.

The next day, she and her husband walked up to the barn and found a bullet on the ground just one foot from where her truck had been parked – six feet from where she had been hiding.

“That one probably wouldn’t have done damage, or much damage, if it had hit the truck, but the one that went zinging past me sure would have,” she said. “I’m not restful about this situation, I’m not pleased about this situation, and I’m not going to be quiet about this situation. This isn’t over.

“There’s nobody here who lives in our area that’s against hunting. There’s nobody that’s against rifles. What we’re against is the reckless and inconsiderate use of them, and that puts people’s lives at risk and it’s a safety issue.”

Parker said residents are hoping to see the MD put stronger regulations in place for shooting on or accessing private property to protect neighbours.

Currently, hunters can access and hunt on undeveloped road allowances. While residents aren’t calling to restrict access, they hope to ban shooting from the road allowance.

“When you shoot an animal on a road allowance they don’t necessarily fall down and die right at that point,” said Parker. “They will likely travel for a while before they finally pass away, so they don’t generally stay on that road allowance, they may access private property on either side of that road allowance.”

Some hunters will go onto private property to retrieve the animal without permission from the owner, or call Fish and Wildlife and receive permission to access the land because their mandate is to not waste an animal or carcass, he said.

Other municipalities have written letters to support changing the regulations on road allowances. In 2015, Mountain View County, Rocky View County, the MD of Bighorn, and Alberta Beef Producers all sent letters imploring the Province to ban shooting from undeveloped road allowances, but their proposal was denied.

“This isn’t taking away any rights on hunters and it’s not deterring hunting, it’s not prohibiting access to those undeveloped road allowances, it’s just preventing the actual hunting on those road allowances could prevent those hunters from going into private lands,” said Parker.

The resident’s letters also called for a change to policies on setbacks, which currently permit shooting at least 200 metres from an inhabited building. She would like to see it changed to within 200 metres of a fence line.

“Her rationale is there’s a lot of small country residential parcels within the MD and there are people who might be out working with their horses or moving cattle and hunters may not know there’s a person who is within a different structure or a corral, any of those sorts of things,” said Parker.

Her final request was to restrict shooting ranges on private land so residents have stricter rules to follow in order to fire a rifle on their own property, he said.

“This is a pretty contentious one as well,” said Parker.

He brought the issues forward to council to seek advice and have MD staff look at the resident’s recommendations and determine whether they were feasible.

“Council isn’t necessarily in favour or in opposition to any of the items she put forth, but it was my job to present the information from her so we could have the conversation and further public consultation to see if there’s anything we need to do.”

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