Hunter facing charge after 4 moose shot on rural Alberta property
'It's only a matter of time before these folks come back and try to kill the remainder'
Residents in a rural community near Cold Lake, Alta., are on edge after four moose were shot and killed on private property without permission.
While one man faces a charge of unauthorized possession of a firearm in relation to the incident Monday, residents say they fear the killing spree may not be over.
"From where their shots were taken and where the moose were killed, that's a direct line to our house," said Eric Novak, who lives less than 500 metres from where the moose were killed in a hay field.
Novak said he was at his home, on a township road about 12 kilometres south of Cold Lake, when he heard five shots that sounded like rifle fire.
"I hopped in my pickup and wheeled over there," he said. "There were two vehicles at the scene, kind of pointed towards each other, and once they saw my headlights they both kind of took off.
"So I rolled up a little closer and I could see the four dead moose — a bull, a cow, and twin calves laying in the field."
Novak said one of the moose wasn't dead. The bull was struggling to stand.
"They had put a bad shot in him," he said. "I went back home and got a gun and put him down."
Novak called RCMP and the local Fish and Wildlife office while he waited with the carcasses. Then he noticed a moose cow standing in the trees nearby.
"She kept coming back," said Novak, a seasoned hunter. "It was a large cow and those were probably her calves. That's typical if you shoot a calf or a fawn, that the mother won't leave."
RCMP Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry said Novak's call came in just after 4:30 p.m. Officers drove to the scene, where they found the four dead moose.
One of the men who shot the moose then returned, Landry said. RCMP seized his rifle and ammunition. Landry said charges are pending for unauthorized possession of a firearm.
"These four moose were shot on private property," Landry said. "Permission was not granted to be on that property by the homeowner, although the homeowner declined to proceed with charges relating to trespassing."
The homeowner, who asked not to be named, confirmed to CBC that a group of men asked to hunt on his property the day before the moose were shot.
He said he turned them away because there are too many family homes near his property and moose-hunting season is over.
The hunters were permitted to take the carcasses from the property for their own use.
Fish and Wildlife officers concluded their own investigation but also didn't lay charges.
"In order to proceed with charges related to hunting on occupied land without permission, officers need an official statement from the landowner saying that permission was not, in fact, granted," spokesperson Brendan Cox wrote in a statement to CBC News.
"In this case, it was the landowner's decision not to provide an official statement. There was no evidence of any other offences."
The hunters were allowed to shoot moose in the off-season because they are Indigenous.
"Indigenous people with Treaty status have a constitutionally protected right to hunt big game for food and are not subject to bag limits," the statement said. "The hunters in this case showed officers proof of their Treaty status."
But some people in the community said they're worried the hunters will come back if they don't face repercussions.
"I'm angry. Very angry, as well as scared for my safety," said Abbie Weenk, who lives next door to Novak.
Weenk often takes her two toddlers for walks through the field where the four moose were shot.
"There's another family of moose in this field, along with hundreds of deer, so now they could come back knowing full-well they'll get away with it," she said.
Novak, who also has two toddlers, estimated about five moose still live near the neighbourhood.
"It's only a matter of time before these folks come back and try to kill the remainder because they're there and they're tame," he said. "At what point do they stop? When they're all gone, or when something worse happens and one of my kids gets shot by a stray bullet?
"Now, every time my kids cross that tree line, I'm going to be worried."