Wildlife groups in Manitoba keep our provincial government in-the-know of what’s happening throughout their areas.
Earlier this month local wildlife association representatives met with government reps to share information, voice concerns and discuss pertinent issues with local hunters, trappers, anglers and farmers from across the province.
Brandon Wildlife Association member, Dan Chranowski, coordinates the Southwest Wildlife Group meeting each year. Representatives from 14 different wildlife groups recently joined together through zoom, including local Westman area groups. As well, reps from the Manitoba Wildlife Federation, the Manitoba Wild Turkey Federation and representatives from a variety of Branches from the Manitoba Government (including Wildlife & Fisheries, and Game, Fur & Wildlife Science) joined in on the virtual meeting.
The annual meeting has taken place each winter since the mid-1990’s. In past years issues such as declining moose populations, increasing elk populations and crop damage, illegal hunting and poaching, the increase in Canadian Goose populations, the decline in fish population through winter-kill, etc.
“Our wildlife group meets in the morning and discusses differerent things, and then when the government officials come and meet with us in the afternoon, we discuss with them some of our suggestions about hunting seasons, etc.” says Chranowski.
The following are some of the main items discussed at the January 16th, 2021 meeting:
Landowner’s Elk Tag
2020 was the first year where landowners could purchase a ‘landowner’s tag’ to help control the elk population and the damage they inflict on crops throughout the growing season. Chranowski shares that there was some success in the Turtle Mountain area, but discussion took place about the length of elk hunting season. “Landowners had a request to extend the season longer. They were finding that there weren’t elk on their property the same time that the season was on.”
Overall, the success rate for the elk hunt was low this past year, even with regular hunting tags being increased from 15 to 25 tags in rifle season. The warm temperatures have been blamed for elk finding feed sources elsewhere during regular elk hunting season, as well as the landowners’ hunt season.
White-tail Deer Tags
In 2012, Manitoba went into a ‘restrictive deer hunting’ structure due to a series of harsh winters and low populations of White-tail deer. Only 1 ‘portable tag’ was available per hunter since that time.
The Wildlife Branch would like to allow additional hunting opportunities as the deer populations have recovered in many parts of Manitoba, specifically along the southern region from Saskatchewan to Ontario. The Branch has recommended that a second deer license with an ‘antler-less’ bag limit be applied to the southern belt of the province for 2021. Determining on the outcome, this may or may not be continued the following year.
An Increase in Mule Deer Populations
A hunting season for mule deer was requested as that population is on the rise in the Southwest Region. Mule deer sightings were reported across the western half of the province, with large amounts seen in the Pierson area.
Mule deer are listed as an endangered species and protected under the Wildlife Act, so no hunting tag can be issued for population control. However, the province stated that if a hunting season would be pursued, it would only be because mule deer have a higher prevalence of carrying Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) that can infect big game.
The Manitoba Wildlife Federation shares it will give CWD more priority in educating the province and our hunters.
Compound Bow vs Crossbow for Seniors
In the proposal to the Minister, the Wildlife Branch is requesting hunter over the age of 65 be able to use a crossbow in the archery hunting season. Currently, a senior must provide a doctor’s letter to prove physical challenges and the inability to maneuver a compound bow, thus allowing the use of a crossbow.
Additional Conservation Officers Help to Curb Illegal Hunting
Hunting on private land without permission still continues, as does night hunting complaints, but Chranowski feels having more officers on the ground has made an impact.
“With more officers on the landscape with more support for night patrols and all, it certainly seems like this year (2020) was a year where they made some progress,” he shares, “and I guess our group is a lot of hunters and we support enforcement because we know it has a lot to do with helping keep sustainable wildlife populations out there and that is what our group is all about. We love the outdoors; the hunting, the fishing, the trapping, and just being outdoors. So, we support those kinds of efforts.”
“Right now, there needs to be continual discussions about that,” he adds. “As far as illegal hunting is concerned, poachers never follow the rules anyways. So, when the officers are out there, they’re being visible. Our officers are part of our community, so they like to be out there and educating people as well. So, I think that’s what our Conservation Officers do quite often, they educate while they’re out there.”
Moose Populations in Manitoba
The Wildlife Amendment Act (Safe Hunting and Shared Management) was proclaimed in October with the current focus being on moose in the Western Region. The hopes are that an increase in Conservation Officers throughout the province would catch people hunting illegally during the day or night in action, as well as deter illegal activity, when it comes to the protection of all big game, but with a focus on the moose.
“There is some concern overall,” says Chranowski. “The Turtle Mountains area still needs to recover because there hasn’t been as many moose as there used to be there.”
‘Bear Management’ Tags are Being Considered
The Manitoba Lodge and Outfitters Association has been requesting a bear survey for some time and the Wildlife Branch has now shared that a future bear survey is being planned. They are hoping that by spring a plan to start identifying bear densities and a draft of a management plan be developed for the province.
An increase in bear populations has been sighted in the Assiniboine River Valley and the Souris River Valley.
The Wildlife Branch is also considering ‘bear management’ tags in areas of high concentrations where farmers are having issues with depredation. They have also shared that they are developing a better process for releasing orphan bears, so that released bears have a better chance of survival in the wild.
Wild Boar Numbers Still on the Rise
Wild boars are still being reported on the west side of the province, as well as on the east side of Spruce Woods. The increasing population of this invasive species is a growing concern in Manitoba. The Manitoba Wildlife Federation and the provincial Wildlife Branch encourage the public to share information to better assess the extent of this growing problem. As an invasive species, there is no regulated hunting season for wild boar and a hunting tag is not needed.
To conclude, Chranowski shares the heart of the local wildlife associations. “We’re just people who live and work out in Southwestern Manitoba and we always like to have our opportunity to speak to the government. We’ve been getting together for a long time and we’re hoping we can continue to do that.”
“Being outdoors is the best teacher,” he adds, “and by coming together we ensure that our wildlife is there to be enjoyed by the generations that follow us.”
Need it be said that this is the heart of all who enjoy the beautiful outdoors and all it holds in our Manitoba!
All proposed changes to the hunting regulations will be determined by the Minister of Manitoba Conservation and Climate Enforcement. The Manitoba Hunting Guide will be printed after regulations are approved by the Minister, and will be available later this spring.