Hunting season is in full swing and on a daily basis, Sundre Fish and Wildlife officers confiscate poached animals or find shot animals left to rot.
The 24-hour Report-A-Poacher line has been busy too, said Adam Mirus, a Fish and Wildlife officer based out of Sundre.
“We’re taking calls right around the clock regarding people shooting from the road, shooting out of vehicles, trespassing, all that kind of stuff.”
Thanks to the prevalence of cellphone cameras, officers are also getting sent photos of vehicles and licence plates.
While the help is appreciated, Mirus cautions those who come across poachers to avoid confronting them.
“The last thing we want is someone getting hurt.”
Cash rewards of up to $2,000 can be handed out for tips and callers can choose to remain anonymous. The number is 1-800-642-3800.
Education plays a big role in cracking down on poaching problems, which return every hunting season.
The education isn’t only for hunters. Landowners who don’t hunt sometimes aren’t aware of the regulations in place.
Mirus has heard of hunters who have shot an animal and tracked it to a neighbouring property who have told the landowners that legally they must allow them on their land to get the animal.
“Which isn’t the case,” he said. “But if you’re a person who does not know any hunting rules you might not know any different.”
Both hunter or landowners should contact Fish and Wildlife in those cases.
The early snow has led to a busy hunting season because animals are easier to track.
On average, Fish and Wildlife officers are seizing a couple of animals a day taken illegally. The hunter might not have tags, or they were shot on someone’s property without permission or shot from the road among other offences.
Another one or two shot animals left to rot are found daily.
Rimbey RCMP is also being kept busy with poaching and trespassing offences.
An elk was shot illegally at night on private land near Secondary Hwy 766 and the Leedale Road in one recent case.
Not far away, two moose were found that had been shot and abandoned. Only their antlers had been sawed off.
“Daily we’re getting called,” said Const. Luke Halvorson.
Complaints range from trespassing and landowners finding human tracks through their fields, cut fences or shots ringing out in the dark.
His best advice is call as soon as you can if you see something illegal.
“A lot of times we’re getting called two or three hours later or the next day. And get as much detail on the suspects as possible,” said Halvorson.
People shouldn’t assume police aren’t interested in hunting offences.
“We’re definitely interested. It’s definitely a problem and we’re interested in conservation and working hand in hand with Fish and Wildlife officers in the area because there’s less of them than us and they have way bigger areas to cover.”
Mirus said animals they seize are taken to a local abattoir to be cut up and packaged. The meat is given to needy families, who only have to pay the cutting and wrapping fees.
However, Mirus said he is seeing more families who don’t have the money to cover that charge. Fish and Wildlife is looking for sponsors willing to help cover some of those costs.
Those interested in helping out should call Fish and Wildlife’s Sundre office at 403-843-3805 or the Olds office at 403-556-4215.
As a government agency, Fish and Wildlife can’t take the money but they can direct it to the right place to help out families.
A deer will provide enough meat for a family for the winter and a moose or elk might feed two or three families.
Hunting seasons vary depending on the game and region, but many of the seasons finish at the end of this month.