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RMOW reviewing bow hunting regulations



It's unclear whether bow hunting in Whistler will be outlawed before hunting season begins Sept. 1.

Councillor Ralph Forsyth said this week that council understands the urgency in the situation, as there is only one meeting left where council can enact some regulation before bow hunting season begins.

He said that if staff can figure out a solution in the next two weeks, it is possible to have the issue resolved before September.

"It is humanely possible," he said. "I don't know if it's likely. I don't know what's going to happen."

Currently, crossbow hunting is legal within Whistler boundaries as long as the hunter is licensed and is 15 metres away from the centre line on the road, and/or is 100 metres away from a playground or building occupied by people or domestic animals.

Council directed staff Tuesday night to review the state of the bylaw and see what steps are necessary to regulate bow hunting within RMOW limits.

The issue hit council after Sylvia Dolson of the Get Bear Smart Society (GBSS), acting independently through the Whistler Residents Opposed to Urban Hunting (WROUH), sent a letter to the mayor and council urging them to prohibit bow hunting before the season begins in September.

"What the public doesn't know is that we're already doing something about this," Forsyth said. "We'd been working on it for a month already (before Dolson's letter)."

Mayor Ken Melamed admitted he wasn't as familiar with the file "as I should be" but was under the impression that no hunting of any kind was allowed within Whistler boundaries.

"I am surprised to hear Ms. Dolson allege this is allowed," he said.

"Basically council has directed staff to review the state of the bylaw and ensure that bow hunting is in fact specifically not allowed within the municipal boundaries."

At this point, it's still not clear to staff or council whether this is a municipal or provincial issue. Staff has been directed to sort that out. Calls made by the Pique to the Ministry of Environment for clarification on this issue were not returned by press time.

The Firearms Bylaw 874 1991 clearly states that the discharge of a firearm is not allowed within the municipality's boundaries but the wording does not include crossbows. Dolson's letter indicates that it's a loophole in the bylaw that allows bow hunting within Whistler limits.

RMOW Administrator Bill Barratt told council that regulations around hunting are handled by the province but Whistler has regulated hunting in the past so it doesn't occur within town boundaries, referring to the bylaw.

Bylaw officer Sandra Smith, speaking to the Pique while on vacation, echoed Barratt's words but said she doesn't yet know what steps the municipality must now take to ban bow hunting.

"All I can say is that we're looking into it at this time," she said.

Dolson said that the issue "absolutely can be corrected by a municipal bylaw."

"BC hunting regulations do not say anything specific about municipalities," she said, noting they only stipulate against hunting in certain areas, such as being 100 metres away from a building.

The file has been given to Heather Beresford, manager of environmental stewardship, who is currently recovering from knee surgery. She was unavailable for comment at press time.

Dolson drafted her letter after an incident in June when a bear was shot and killed with a crossbow by a licensed hunter south of Function Junction. Witnesses reported the incident to the Conservation Officer Service, who found that the hunter was within his legal rights.



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