The local conservation officer service is asking for public assistance after a series of illegal hunting incidents took place in and around Invermere over the last two weeks.
“Hunting and poaching are prohibited within the boundaries of the community and I think it’s very unacceptable for anyone to do that,” said District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft, “and it’s extremely dangerous with the potential for bullets or arrows to go to private property, potentially domesticated animals, if not a person.”
The first report, called in on Tuesday, October 2, was about a seriously injured mule deer buck by the Invermere Home Hardware. The buck, walking with its intestines hanging out, made its way to the RCMP detachment where police saw it was seriously injured and put it down. Invermere conservation officer Greg Kruger confirmed it had been shot with an arrow, either from a bow or cross bow.
“It was shot through its stomach and the arrow boardhead was lodged in its ankle,” Kruger said. “We don’t know who (did it) or where that deer was shot.”
Next, a partially butchered first-year fawn was discovered on the outskirts of the Wilder subdivision on the morning of Tuesday, October 9 and Kruger suspects poachers were responsible for the kill.
“The way it was butchered, obviously these people knew what they were doing with knives,” Kruger told The Valley Echo on Wednesday (October 10).
A nearby resident had called the RAPP (Report All Poachers and Polluters) line after his dog discovered the carcass on the grassy slope up from the bottom of Kpokyl Road. The resident told Kruger he heard a single gunshot around 10:30 p.m. the night before, but didn’t think it was worth calling in at the time.
“It was likely a small calibre gun, not that loud,” Kruger said, “but it’s hard to say, the gully would suppress a lot of sound.”
He couldn’t find a bullet, but saw that parts of the rib cage had been cut out.
“When it was butchered, it appears that the bullet hole was cut out to cover (it up),” Kruger said. “There was no other reason to cut them out because there was no meat there.”
Despite being so young, the fawn’s hindquarters — what’s regarded as the best cut of meat — had been removed.
Kruger also responded to a call later that same day about a mule deer buck at the end of Walker Lane with its bottom jaw hanging off, but he was unable to find it after it was spooked off by a train. Given the buck was seen within 400 to 500 metres of the fawn carcass, it’s likely it was shot as well, that the two problems are related and that “someone went on a little shooting spree on Monday night,” Kruger said.
The most recent incident was called in Wednesday (October 10) night at about 8:30 pm when a concerned resident observed a mule deer buck at the bottom end of Johnson road, just off westside road, with an arrow through its back.
“Something’s going on,” Kruger said. “For those three deer from Kpokyl Road, Walker Lane, Johnson Road, it’s all within a fairly close proximity (and) all these four deer all human caused; these are all involved with hunting or illegal hunting.”
At the local level, the discharge of firearms, bows ( longbow or crossbow )or hunting within the district of Invermere is prohibited by law and anyone caught and convicted is liable to be fined up to $2000. Enforcement is up to the RCMP and bylaw enforcement officers. Provincially, these incidents falls under the Wildlife Act.
“If we were able to apprehend who is doing it, it’s multiple violations,” said Kruger.
Under the act, no one can hunt within 100 metres of a dwelling or 500 m of a school, and shoot from, along or across a public road. In the hunting management area in which Invermere sits, open season on mule deer includes only bucks with four-point antlers, not antlerless deer, including fawns.
Additionally, the legal hunting time in B.C. is one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise.
“So whoever (is shooting), it’s total disregard of the hunting regulations,” said Kruger. For most of these offences, the minimum penalty is $100 with a maximum of $100,000 and/or one year in jail.
“We would say this is getting to be a bigger investigation,” he said.
Taft said no one should be drawing comparisons between these incidents and a deer cull, which he defined as an organized, targeted provincially-sanctioned operation to decrease the deer population in the most humane way possible.
“Those really upset about the deer population in town, if they see no action from government and their concerns aren’t being listened to, there might be a small number within them that will try to ‘take things into their own hands’ and that’s concerning because I don’t think it’s the right thing to do or the safest thing to do,” he said, “(and) not something we condone or encourage in any way.”
Anyone who knows anything or who witnesses suspicious activity is asked to call the provincial toll-free RAPP line at 1-877-952-7277, which is manned 24/7 and anonymity is guaranteed.
“Last year we had some problems in Windermere but it was more people targeting what we call trophy bucks, the bigger ones,” Kruger said. “Typically what we see is people taking bigger risks for the trophy animals in closed hunting areas. This year and especialy with that fawn we’re a little bit baffled as to what the motives are.”