Hunters using drones? N.W.T. hunters say that's 'cheating' amid drone ban talks

Residents of the Northwest Territories are being asked for their input on a drone ban proposal in the wildlife legislation. Some hunters are pushing for the ban.

‘If a hunter can’t go out and put meat on the table fairly, he shouldn’t be out hunting,’ says Earl Evans

Alex Perrett has been hunting for about four years, and said using drones 'is kind of like cheating.' (Jamie Malbeuf/CBC)

Some N.W.T. residents say it's unfair to use drones while hunting amid discussions on proposed legislation that could see them banned for many hunters in the territory.

Alex Perrett has been hunting for about four years, and said using drones "is kind of like cheating."

"I think if you give that sort of an advantage to a hunter, you risk over-hunting," he said. 

With that in mind, Perrett also said he isn't sure how many hunters would actually use the technology.

The ban proposed under draft wildlife legislation would prohibit anyone with an N.W.T. hunting licence, including residents and non-residents, from hunting or possessing a drone while hunting in the territory. 

The proposal includes an exemption for Aboriginal harvesters with rights to harvest in the N.W.T. 

'Unfair advantage,' says longtime hunter

Earl Evans, a longtime hunter and chair of the Beverly and Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board, also supports the ban.

"It's an unfair advantage to the hunter," he said. "The animals wouldn't have a chance."

Drones can be used to look over large areas and find out where animals are roaming — giving hunters an edge.

Evans said if the drone ban proposal doesn't go through, "wildlife populations will be dramatically reduced because it's so much easier for people to locate animals."

Evans said he's in favour of fair chase, and wants to see everyone banned from using drones, including those with Aboriginal treaty rights.

"If a hunter can't go out and put meat on the table fairly, he shouldn't be out hunting."

Seeking input

There is currently no hunting-related drone regulation in the territory.

The topic was addressed in 2014, but the territory's Department of Environment and Natural Resources didn't feel as though it was ready to propose legislation on the topic.

"We needed a little bit more input from our wildlife co-management partners on the wildlife act working group and from stakeholders," said Rob Gau, manager for the biodiversity conservation with the department.

Rob Gau is the manager for the biodiversity conservation with the territory's Department of Environment. (Government of the Northwest Territories)

"We need to do some more internal analysis of the concept and what other jurisdictions are doing before we could actually go out and propose a regulation amendment."

Now the department is approaching residents in the N.W.T. to see what they think of limiting drone use for hunting.

Gau said it's early in the process.

"But what I've heard so far is a general consensus that drones should be banned for all types of harvesters in the Northwest Territories," he said.

Residents can provide input on the draft legislation until June 30, 2018.

It also includes proposals to restrict the import and possession of alpacas, llamas, and wild boars. As well as restrict the import and release of live bats in the territory.

The department expects it will be able to enforce the new rules by the end of March 2019.