EDMONTON — Spear-hunting is being banned in Alberta following outcry after a viral video showed an American hunter killing a black bear with a spear.
The province has updated hunting rules to ensure big game animals do not suffer unnecessarily and to discourage reckless hunting.
“Albertans know that spear-hunting is not safe,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in an interview on Wednesday.
“It’s not humane because most hunters know that the chances of getting close enough to hit that moving target with big game, and sufficient accuracy and force to kill immediately is next to zero.”
The government pledged to change the rules after the graphic online video of the bear’s death surfaced in 2016.
The video, posted on YouTube by hunter Josh Bowmar, showed a bear being baited before the spear, with a camera attached, was launched at the animal from 11 to 14 metres away. The video also showed the man celebrating when the bear was hit.
After the video caused uproar on social media, the province consulted with hunting groups and Alberta Environment and Parks received more than 3,900 responses from the public about the new regulations. Phillips said most supported the prohibition.
“Of the about 118,000 who hunt big game in Alberta every year, over 90 per cent of those folks are Alberta residents,” Phillips said. “We are really just reflecting what Albertans want.”
Spears and spear-throwing tools such as atlatls are no longer allowed for big game hunting. Rifles, shotguns and conventional archery gear will still be legal.
Alberta Conservation Association President Todd Zimmerling said the new rules didn’t come as a surprise and were part of an ongoing conversation between the hunting community and the government for a long time. But, after the controversial video, Zimmerling said it was important to make the regulations clear.
“A single unfortunate event, such as the posting of that video, can have a huge impact on how the non-hunting community looks at hunters overall,” he said.
“I’m just glad to see it’s finally been dealt with and I’m hoping everybody sees this as a positive step forward.”
Robert Gruszecki, president of the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association, said in a release on Wednesday that he also supports the government’s regulation update.
The maximum penalty for using a prohibited weapon is $50,000 fine and one year in jail. If threatened or endangered species are involved, the penalty doubles.
The new rules will also require larger shotgun pellets to ensure the animal is killed quickly.
The updated rules come into effect in time for the 2018 hunting season.