Rural landowners are being asked by the Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) to complete a survey on granting hunters permission to access their property.
The survey, available through ACA’s website, is being conducted to understand the factors influencing whether landowners decide to allow hunting on their property.
According to Robert Anderson, ACA wildlife biologist, the relationship between hunters and landowners is changing, meaning some landowners are unwilling to have hunters access their property.
“What worked 30 years ago may not work now,” he said.
Finding a place to hunt being difficult is believed to be one of the reasons why the number of hunters in Alberta has been decreasing. Tags for mule deer and some other species have kept steady, but general hunting licenses and white-tailed deer tags – which drive provincial numbers – have been steadily decreasing, said Anderson.
Because having fewer hunters has implications to conservation, the ACA is conducting the survey to better understand the landowner-hunter relationship.
There are many reasons why hunters are important to conservation, said Anderson.
Hunting still plays an important role in wildlife management in some instances. One example is snow geese, which have become overpopulated.
“They’ve actually been degrading Arctic tundra habitats, to the point where other species are now starting to suffer,” noted Anderson.
In response, the government has changed some hunting regulations to encourage more hunters to harvest migrating snow geese, to control their population expansion and conserve habitat.
Licenses also fund conservation.
“Every time somebody buys a hunting or fishing license, a portion of that money is set aside for us,” said Anderson.
Last year, the organization received about $8 million from hunting licenses and $5 million from fishing licenses. That revenue funds grants, including funding university research on conservation. It is also used to work with agricultural producers for habitat and sustainable agriculture initiatives. The ACA also provides services directly in relation to wildlife management, such as wildlife surveys.
Hunting also provides data relevant to conservation.
“The government has always done surveys of hunters to ask what they were targeting and whether they were successful,” said Anderson. “Based on that, they can get an idea of how the population is doing.”
It is up to landowners as to how much information they provide in the survey. All data is pooled and no personal information will be shared with the public. Respondents can leave their contact information or remain anonymous.
Wheatland County has been promoting the survey on its social media. According to Alyssa Robb, Wheatland County environmental coordinator, sampling all viewpoints is important, regardless of whatever beliefs and experiences landowners have regarding hunting on their land.
“We encourage landowners to complete it, whether they allow hunters on their property or have had experience with it or not,” she said.
The issue is important in Wheatland County because so much of its land is private, she explained. “When somebody gets a tag, they’re going to find somewhere they can go, and in most situations, it’s all private, so they must ask permission.”
The survey can be accessed online.
Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times