Ranchers using aircraft to track livestock

Farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be blamed for low-flying aircraft suspected of being used by big game hunters, a rancher says.

Farmers and ranchers shouldn’t be blamed for low-flying aircraft suspected of being used by big game hunters, a rancher says.

Earlier this month, Consort RCMP requested the public’s help in finding people responsible for using aircraft in the area for hunting.

However, in the fall and early winter, ranchers regularly fly low over the vast open range country looking for stray cattle, says Coronation area rancher Wally Henry.

In some cases, the animals have wandered after sloppy hunters have knocked down fences or failed to lock gates when hunting illegally on ranch land.

“I don’t own a plane but I rely on neighbours who have one and fly with them when I’ve lost cattle.

“This time of year, you have to make sure they’re safe ’cause it’s getting to where the snow flies and the cattle can die if they’re lost and wandered away from water and feed,” Henry said.

He also said most hunters aren’t from the area.

“This time of year, the place is crawling with them and most of them aren’t from here.

“They’re mostly a surly bunch who don’t ask permission to go on the land and a lot of times will open a gate and just drive in.

“Sometimes they will bust down the fence and just drive through with their big bush trucks.”

Henry said he’s had to kick a few off his land this year and it’s the same every hunting season.

“Yeah, we get some big trophy animals out this way and further east but it only takes an honest guy to come up to you and say ‘Can I hunt on your land and where don’t you want me to go?’.”

Cpl. Colm Fitzgerald of Consort RCMP said on Thursday that the police received some complaints of aircraft being used for hunting earlier this month.

“We’ve had a few ranchers come in really ticked off and say ‘it’s not me’ using the planes for hunting,” Fitzgerald said.

“We’ve got a lot of ranchers out here who use their planes to check on their cattle and we know that,” he said.

He said police are working with Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers to investigate the complaints.

He also acknowledged some hunters may use a guide to fly over a potential hunting area searching for a trophy animal.

East Central Alberta has seen many trophy winning animals taken in recent years.

It’s illegal to shoot animals from an aircraft and it’s also illegal for a person to hunt big game within six hours after having disembarked anywhere from an aircraft.

Conviction can result in a fine up to $50,000 or jail for a term of not more than one year.

jwilson@bprda.wpengine.com

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