Manitoba hunters, ranchers seek rural night-hunting ban

The Manitoba Wildlife Federation points to this bullet hole in a rural northwestern Manitoba home as an example of the risks to the public from unchecked night hunting. (

Manitoba’s hunter and rancher groups are calling on the province to tighten its enforcement against night hunting and ban the activity among all hunters in the province’s populated rural areas.

The call Tuesday from the Manitoba Wildlife Federation follows a Sept. 10 near-miss in which a couple near Winnipegosis, about 60 km north of Dauphin, were woken at 4 a.m. by a bullet going through their bedroom window frame into a closet wall.

“Spotlighting, or night hunting, is an all-too-common occurrence in rural Manitoba,” Wayne Lytwyn, the couple’s son-in-law, said in an MWF release. “Not only does it pose a significant risk to public safety, the damage done by poachers and night hunters is costly and disturbing.”

Manitoba livestock have also been killed or injured by hunters using spotlights at night, the MWF said, in a call backed by groups including Manitoba Beef Producers, the Manitoba Natural Resource Officers’ Association and the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.

Manitoba hunting regulations today allow night hunting — usually done with high-powered lights (“spotlighting”), to illuminate and immobilize game — by Aboriginal hunters only. The rules also ban night hunting entirely in areas “where it is dangerous to do so.”

However, the MWF said, Manitoba today has a “moratorium on enforcement” of those rules.

The group said it wants the province to enforce a prohibition on night hunting in “agricultural, developed and populated areas of the province where there is a risk to public safety.”

Manitoba’s current policy, the group said, is “inconsistent with established policies in Saskatchewan and Alberta where unsafe hunting on private and Crown lands by all residents is actively prosecuted.”

“Unoccupied lands”

To enforce a blanket ban in “agro-Manitoba,” the federation said, “appropriate consultations” would need to be held with rights holders, so as to respect constitutional rights and map out areas of Manitoba where night hunting may be done safely.

“From our early discussions, we strongly believe that the Aboriginal community understands the problems with spotlighting,” MWF director Fred Tait said in the same release. “We are calling on the province to seriously commit to conducting the necessary consultations with indigenous hunters so that we can make rural communities safe.”

Any blanket bans against night hunting and spotlighting that apply to all hunters in all areas have been on shaky ground since a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2006, in favour of two British Columbia hunters who invoked treaty rights.

In that decision, Canada’s top court noted much of B.C.’s north is “uninhabited except by Aboriginal people, and there are areas where even they are seen only occasionally.

“To conclude that night hunting with illumination is dangerous everywhere in the province does not accord with reality and is not, with respect, a sound basis for limiting the treaty right.”

The court also emphasized there is “no treaty right to hunt dangerously,” and noted treaty language in the B.C. case that limits night hunting to “unoccupied lands.” — Network

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