SLRD to propose ‘hunting awareness plan’ 

Police matching guns with lethal bullet to find dog’s shooter

A "hunting awareness plan" proposed by the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District in the wake of a dog shooting has met with initial support from the dog’s owner and representatives of the hunting community.

The opening statement in SLRD planner Willie Macrae’s report reads: "the SLRD request the Pemberton Wildlife Association and the Pemberton Valley Trails Association to collaborate on a seasonal hunting awareness plan involving signage, education, advertising, etc. and that this plan be submitted to the SLRD by the end of April for comment."

The report is in response to the November shooting of James and Veronica Woodruff’s dog while the couple was cycling in the Mackenzie Basin area outside the Village of Pemberton. The shooting highlighted a simmering land-use conflict between hunters and other recreationalists that has escalated as the Pemberton area has grown.

The report recognizes that the shooting appears to have been an isolated incident orchestrated by someone that does not represent licensed hunters.

"The key is, that while we express lament for the loss of the dog we feel that it hasn’t quite manifested itself into a defined risk to human safety," said Macrae.

"It was clearly a deliberate shot by someone who doesn’t represent the hunting community and we’ve had a clear indication from the hunting community that restricting hunting areas, especially traditional First Nations hunting areas, would be something that would cause a lot of concern.

"On the other hand, we don’t want to do nothing and I think a lot of people had no idea that people hunted in that area.

"And if I’m a hunter I don’t want to go into areas where I know there’s a lot of bikers, so spreading some education and awareness will probably work to mitigate some of their concerns."

Macrae will present his report on the matter at the SLRD’s regular meeting on Jan. 24.

Woodruff said she still supported the idea of making the Mackenzie Basin area off limits to hunters but she was also pleased with the SLRD’s solution.

"I feel like there’s some progress being made there," said Woodruff.

President of the PWA, Clarke Gatehouse, was also happy with the SLRD’s recommendation.

"I think it’s a logical decision," said Gatehouse. "I always said that we’d work with anybody that wants to be educated on hunting or any other activity in the area and it certainly makes sense to me to discuss it amongst ourselves."

But Woodruff was less supportive of the Pemberton council. Last month she made a presentation to council asking that hunting be prohibited in some areas of the SLRD. PWA members also attended the meeting and did not support Woodruff’s proposal.

"One thing I wanted to point out was that a lot of people talk about the hunting season being one month long, but it’s from Sept. 10 to Nov. 30 – that’s three months long – and that’s a long time to restrict areas to any one but hunters," Woodruff said.

"But I’m happy someone’s taking it seriously because the village isn’t doing anything. I was dismissed from their meeting. You saw all the hunters, they (the council) did nothing to defuse the situation when they could have opened it up to discussion.

"Whistler council instantly passed a resolution to support having some areas with gun restrictions, whereas Pemberton council didn’t do anything. I think I did my part but I haven’t heard anything… I think it was a non-issue to them."

While the wider issues of land use might soon be addressed, the police are still conducting an investigation to find the shooter.

During the past few weeks the RCMP have been gathering weapons from people in the area who own guns which match the calibre of the bullet found in the dog’s carcass.

"We’ve taken some samples (guns) to be lab tested and the investigation is ongoing," said a RCMP spokesman. "And the community has been completely supportive… we’re just doing our best to continue our investigation and hopefully figure out who did it."

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