Fish and Wildlife Officers are there to enforce the hunting regulations and apprehend poachers, but they also encourage hunters to be responsible and enjoy the sport.
“We support and encourage lawful hunting. It’s a great outdoor recreational activity, an important tool in wildlife management, and a tradition that builds friendships and camaraderie,” says Fish and Wildlife Officer Dave Barrett, who works out of Peace River.
“With respect to enforcing game laws, our primary objective is to achieve voluntary compliance. I’d rather take the opportunity to explain the rules and regulations to someone, than deal with an enforcement situation after the fact. It’s the hunter’s responsibility to know the regulations and Fish and Wildlife Officers are more than willing to answer questions and provide clarification in advance of your hunting trip.
“Additionally, hunters must show respect to landowners. Without the willingness of landowners to allow access, hunters are limited in the areas they can hunt. By allowing hunter access to their property, they also contribute to wildlife management. Landowners are also encouraged to put up ‘Use Respect – Ask First’ permission signs which are available, free of charge, at Fish and Wildlife offices. Their contact information can be posted on the signs which will enable hunters to contact them.”
Fish and Wildlife Officers are responsible for large geographical areas and they rely on public assistance to report illegal or suspicious activity. Officer Barrett encourages anyone who observes unusual or suspicious activity to contact Fish and Wildlife immediately.
“We can’t be everywhere at once, but our focus will be on priority areas where we receive public complaints,” he says.
Barrett also says, “there’s a clear distinction between a hunter and a poacher. They’re not one in the same. Poachers have no respect for the laws, landowners or wildlife. Officer’s primary concerns are public safety, protection of property and resource protection. Some common offences encountered by Wildlife Officers are night hunting, shooting off roadways, wastage of wildlife, cutting fences to unlawfully gain access to private property and the illegal sale of wildlife. If you’re involved in these illegal activities, we’re coming for you. It’s not a matter of if, but when you’re going to get caught.”
Anyone wishing to report hunting or fishing violations are encouraged to contact the Report-a-Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800, 24 hours a day, and provide information such as the date and location of the incident, a vehicle description, licence plate number, and description and number of suspects involved. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward if the information provided leads to charges being laid.
As the archery season opened on August 25 and the general rifle season beginning in September, Fish and Wildlife Officers encourage everyone to have a safe, responsible and successful season.