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Living with Wildlife

Hunter Safety to Hunt Safely

The Living with Wildlife column is published monthly in the Rocky Mountain Outlook to create awareness of living with wildlife challenges. We also work with local newspapers, radio and television stations to promote wildlife safety issues through the media on a weekly basis.

Hunting has been a part of human survival throughout our history. At one time it was the principle activity that brought meat to the table. Today, in Canada, motivation for hunting ranges from subsistence use, to trophy acquisition, to just taking an armed walk in the woods. Although the motivation to hunt may have changed, risks associated with hunting remain.

Hunting generally requires stealth, some level of camouflage and in many cases use of attractants, sounds and scents. These may work well to bring in the intended prey but keep in mind it might bring in unwanted guests too. A bear, for example , may ignore the sound and scent of a person, but a bear won’t ignore the sounds and scents of an elk. The bear could approach what he thinks will be an ‘elk meal’, to find a hunter instead. The bear could consider the hunter to be a competitor or even a reasonable alternate meal. Such a scenario is a no win situation. Wildlife caused human fatalities/injuries usually result in one or more wildlife deaths.

Each year hunters are killed or injured by wildlife; many of them experienced and armed with a weapon they are proficient with. So how can such a person become a victim?

While it is impossible to prevent all wildlife involved human fatalities and injuries, we can reduce them by implementing safe practices. Most hunters are not prepared to react effectively to a sudden charge from a surprise encounter. Studies indicate fatal attacks are initiated at close range, giving the hunter little time to react. Fatally wounding a charging bear, with a bullet or arrow, for example, is difficult at the best of times. When the hunter is surprised, a successful shot is even less likely.

Excellent hunter safety courses and information are available through government and private sources. Gun safety, appropriate clothing, planning and wildlife interactions are topics covered in these courses. All hunters should be familiar with general information and where available, information specific to the area the hunt is planned for. Safety tips are good, but to shift the focus from ‘Hunter Safety’ to ‘Hunting Safely’, these tips must become part and parcel of the hunt.

Bear spray, a recent innovation, has been found to be more effective than a rifle or arrow in preventing injury from bear attacks. Carry it, know how to use it and above all, be prepared. Complacency leads to increased danger. An excellent report “Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska” provides confirmation of the effectiveness of bear spray when close and critical encounters with bears occur.

Keep in mind and practice the 6 “P “s, for safer hunting: “Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. Keep yourself and wildlife safe, review and implement hunter safety tips, hunt safely, and be WildSmart.

Thank you to our sponsors whose generosity has made WildSmart a reality.

Residents are encouraged to report any sightings of bear, cougar or aggressive elk to 403-591-7755.
For all public safety emergencies call 9-1-1.


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