Manitoba elk slaughter video prompts questions and investigation

A graphic video of a man counting the number of elk killed in a day of hunting has led to some racially-charged comments online and questions about whether Manitoba’s hunting rules go far enough.

Details of the hunt, believed to have taken place near Duck Mountain in western Manitoba sometime shortly before the New Year, have been removed from Facebook.

But a video of the result of the hunt titled "Elk Slaughter Duck Mountain Manitoba December 2012" remains posted to YouTube.

In the video, one hunter counts out a total of 12 dead elk lined up in a row. Some of the animals have long, thick antlers. Others do not.

Several men with trucks and skidoos are gathered nearby. Such a large kill is rare, and the province’s elk population is carefully watched by local wildlife conservationists.

According to CBC News, officials are investigating the incident to ensure all hunting rules were followed. Penalties could include a $10,000 fine and a jail sentence.

[ Related: Elk herd in North Dakota thinned by 69 animals ]

Elk hunting is regulated in Manitoba, with only about 1,700 tags issued each year. But First Nation hunters are not subject to limits. They are, however, required to ensure none of their kill goes to waste, and cannot sell any of what they catch.

The video prompted a debate over First Nations hunting rights, with several people posting racially-charged comments on YouTube.

In response, one commenter named levi2202 wrote:

Just so everyone is aware. Not all First Nations people are like this. We respect our rights and our land. These people are a disgrace and a stain on our culture.

For some, however, the problem comes down to lax hunting rules. Vince Crichton, a former official with Manitoba Conservation, says the slaughter is indicative of hunting rules that do not offer enough protection for wildlife.

[ More Brew: Olivia Chow says she has Ramsay Hunt syndrome ]

Crichton told the Winnipeg Free Press:

Since old Bullwinkle walked across the Bering land bridge thousands of years ago, he hasn't changed at all. But look at what we have today in terms of cars, trucks and snow machines. We all have better access. They are now more vulnerable than they've ever been in the past. We can't continue to harvest the way we have and expect the resource to be there for future generations.

Seeing so many animals lying dead, lined up in a row, is disconcerting for non-hunters and potentially worrisome for those who do hunt. A kill of that size in one location can thin a herd and frighten survivors away from common mating areas.

Unless officials find otherwise, the result of the elk hunt was legitimate and legal. But that doesn’t make it right.