Poachers still targeted

The Rick Zemanek editorial of Oct. 5, Put poachers in sights, relies solely on data from the Alberta Conservation Association interpreted by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees.

The Rick Zemanek editorial of Oct. 5, Put poachers in sights, relies solely on data from the Alberta Conservation Association interpreted by the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees. The interpretation, unfortunately, misrepresents the ability of our trained and capable staff to bring charges forward when there is good evidence.

The first misinterpretation is in the relationship between tips and calls. In addition, since 2008, the public has been increasingly using the Report A Poacher (RAP) line to notify Fish and Wildlife staff about serious problem wildlife incidents that may put the public at risk. Our analysis of the RAP data for 2009-2010 reveals that out of 7,509 calls, only 1,458 related to possible violations.

Caution needs to be applied to interpreting numbers of reported possible violations versus officers’ follow-up investigations. The number of reports includes any violation; yet only those charges that make the caller eligible for a reward are listed. For example, hunting without permission is a frequently reported violation, but that offence is not reward-eligible and not reported as a prosecution in the overall RAP statistics. In 2007-08, there were 256 eligible calls that resulted in 355 charges and 83 rewards paid. In 2009-10, there were 246 eligible calls that resulted in 276 charges and 107 rewards paid.

No matter how many calls we receive, successful investigations (whether or not they involve a prosecution) depend more on the quality of information provided than on the number of calls.

Albertans can be assured that Fish and Wildlife officers are working to protect the province’s fish and wildlife. It does a disservice to our dedicated Fish and Wildlife staff to suggest that poaching in Alberta is a free-for-all.

Finally, I would be disappointed if Albertans become discouraged from using the RAP line and making an important contribution to our efforts to ensure safe, responsible and sustainable use of fish and wildlife resources.

Mel Knight

Minister

Sustainable Resource Development