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Illegal hunting in Nova Scotia results in 1,500 charges over 4 years

CBC News obtained data under Freedom of Information and Privacy Act

By Elizabeth McMillan

CBC News

Posted: Dec 07, 2015 6:00 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 07, 2015 6:00 AM AT

There have been about 1,500 charges laid in relation to illegal hunting in Nova Scotia within the last four years and despite rules banning the practice people are still firing guns close to highways and buildings.

CBC News obtained data under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act relating to incidents between January 2011 and October 2015. It shows the province issued about 2,077 warnings in addition to the charges.

Hunting regulations prohibit hunters from having a loaded gun in a vehicle and from firing within 30 metres of a highway. This means it's illegal to park along the side of the highway and shoot from the comfort of a vehicle.

Despite this, there were 66 charges tied to transporting a loaded firearm in a vehicle or a boat and 63 charges for discharging a gun or bow across or near a highway.

Fourteen of the charges for firing near a highway happened this year, with 10 convictions and one case that has yet to go to trial.

In New Brunswick, a CBC investigation found there was a 14 per cent conviction rate for violations of the Fish and Wildlife Act. The Nova Scotia Department of Environment didn't have full statistics for convictions.

"The statistics are alarming, but with 45,000 to 55,000 hunters in the woods every year, the statistics aren't that bad," said Ian Avery, president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

But, he said, the numbers may not capture the extent of the problem.

What happens when no one is watching?

"When no one is watching, who really knows what's going on?" he said. "Without a good complement of officers out there, it's hard to say if those numbers are really that low. "

The N.S. Department of Environment said there are 54 conservation officers on the ground during hunting season.

Avery said his group would ideally like to see three times that number monitoring hunters and fishers in order to ensure the province is covered.

He said sometimes conservation officers use dummy deer and moose to lure poachers, but generally it's a matter of being in the right place at the right time.

It's often up to individual hunters to ensure there's no poaching, littering or taking too much wild game. Getting a conviction depends on a witness's willingness to report the problem and testify if need be, he said.

"As hunters and conservationists, we are the eyes and ears in the woods and if we see things out of place or that are not correct or there are violations, it's up to us to respond."

There is still some stigma tied to reporting infractions, he said.

"Most hunters will say they know somebody who knows someone who shot a deer when they shouldn't have. Or they heard the stories and they're just afraid to report it because of backlash," said Avery.
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