Bow hunting bylaw falls short for human safety 

Council passes amendment to ban crossbows in areas of Whistler

Council hasn't gone far enough to protect humans and animals from crossbows in Whistler's recreational areas, according to one concerned citizen.

Sylvia Dolson said the bylaw amendment passed at Tuesday's council meeting to ban bow hunting from Emerald Estates to Function Junction including municipal parks such as Lost Lake and the Whistler Interpretive Forest, isn't good enough.

"Mayor and council failed the residents of Whistler by not including some important recreation sites and trails (in the bylaw change)," said a disappointed Dolson after the meeting.

She pointed to the Whistler Bungee site, the Cougar Mountain site and the Cal-Cheak campground all as heavily used recreational areas that still allow bow hunting.

"The main issue here is safety around crossbows," she added. "They're highly sophisticated, dangerous weapons."

Crossbows were allowed within municipal boundaries, unlike other lethal firearms, something that was brought to light last year when a guide outfitter shot a black bear with a bow beside the highway near Function Junction.

The incident sparked outrage in the community and prompted this bylaw amendment.

Dolson wants bows banned within the entire municipal boundaries. Failing that, she said, signs should be posted in recreation areas where crossbows are allowed to warn residents and guests of the dangers.

Councillor Tom Thomson also argued for a ban in the entire municipal boundaries, focusing on the ethics and morals of hunting rather than public safety.

"I don't think the town could bear the shame (of a black bear being killed by a bow) after what has gone on..." said Thomson, referring to the recent sled dog cull that thrust Whistler into the international spotlight.

Hunting, said Thomson, is not something that fits with the greater scope of the Whistler experience.

A debate ensued at the table about the morals of hunting.

"This isn't just about bears," said Councillor Chris Quinlan, addressing Thomson's points. "Hunting is for sustenance, is a natural part of our existence as human beings."

Councillor Eckhard Zeidler also highlighted the arbitrary nature of the boundary lines.

"They're political," he said. "They're nothing to do with what's happening on the ground."

Moreover, said Zeidler, those boundaries could change in the future.

The bylaw amendment still allows for bow hunting to the west of Whistler's developed area, within the boundaries.

The Conservation Officer Service (COS) has reported that hunting guide activity has increased in the corridor and the Pemberton area but no accidents with humans have occurred. The COS was unable to confirm if bow hunting has increased and does not have statistics for the activity, according to the municipal staff report.

Curtis Christian, who owns a company called Whistler Archers, also asked council to consider the impact the bylaw change would have to the sport of archery and asked that council designate an area, like the Frisbee disc course, where archers can shoot.

In the end, with a small change to include the Flank Trail within the banned bow area, council unanimously voted to accept the bylaw amendment.

While she was pleased with the inclusion of the Flank Trail, Dolson said overall the change falls short of what she was hoping for.

"I think we missed a really important (point) around the safety of crossbows," said Dolson. "The issue is not the ethics and morals around hunting."

The amendment also widens the banned hunting area along the highway and roads. Previously hunters could use a crossbow 15 feet beyond the middle of the road, now that has been expanded to 100 feet.

Meanwhile, in response to the letters about the sled dog cull still falling on council's desk, Mayor Ken Melamed stressed that Whistler is a caring, dog-friendly community.

Council is following the case and is awaiting the findings from the three-member provincial task force.

That task force is due to serve its report to the Minister of Agriculture on March 25.



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