Deer hunting rules relaxed to curb deadly disease

Rules for hunting deer in western Quebec are being eased in an effort to curb the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), leaving some hunters concerned about negative impacts. 

Quebec ministry says easing rules can prevent spread of chronic wasting disease

A deer is seen against a beige background.
Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks wants to collect more samples to test whether wild deer are carrying chronic wasting disease. (Radio-Canada)

Rules for hunting deer in western Quebec are being eased in an effort to curb the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD), leaving some hunters concerned about negative impacts. 

From Sept. 21 to Nov. 17, any deer regardless of age or sex can be hunted with any hunting weapon — including rifles, shotguns and crossbows — in certain municipalities in the Outaouais and the Laurentians. 

By relaxing the rules, Quebec's Ministry of Forests, Wildlife and Parks (MFFP) hopes to get more samples to test for CWD, a progressive, fatal disease of the nervous system of deer, elk, moose and caribou. 

The ministry is encouraging hunters to prioritize adult animals, since the disease is only detectable in animals over 12 months of age.

Hoping for 800 samples

In a statement released Sept. 6, the MFFP said it's hoping to get 800 white-tailed deer samples through hunters submitting deer to collection points for testing. If the disease is not present, hunters will be able to recover the animal. 

Once the target is reached during the 2019 hunting season, the ministry plans to reinstate usual hunting procedures. 

But the new rules don't sit well with some hunters including Harvey Young, who lives and hunts in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge.

He said he's worried too many hunters will descend on the area and is skeptical about how the ministry will enforce a return to usual hunting procedures once the sample goal is met. 

Hunter Harvey Young is concerned about too many hunters descending on the region with the loosening of the hunting rules. (Submitted by Harvey Young)

"We're going to have to fight with people on our land and on our roads . . . We're going to be stuck with this problem for two months," said Young. "There's a lot of greedy hunters out there. They're trigger happy. It's just going to open the flood gates."

Hunters worry about safety

Government officials briefed hunters on the new rules in a meeting in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge Sept. 7. 

In a French-language interview, Steve Chartrand, a hunter from Grenville-sur-la-Rouge, said he's worried about safety.

The usual rifle-hunting season is later, coinciding with a time when there are fewer leaves on the trees, he said. But by allowing rifles to be used at the beginning of the season, Chartrand said more leaves and less visibility could lead to dangerous situations. 

A meeting was held Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 to brief hunters on the new relaxed rules. (Radio-Canada)

The ministry said hunting vests will be mandatory for the duration of the season in the areas where the relaxed rules apply and that it will increase the number of wildlife protection officers present during the season. 

First case detected in 2018

The first case of CWD was detected in an animal at Harpur Farms in Grenville-sur-la-Rouge in the Lower Laurentians in the fall of 2018.

The ministry suspended the hunting season in the region and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency ordered the killing of approximately 3,000 animals in the herd.

Wildlife officers shot 750 deer in 2018 in an effort to see if the disease had reached the wild deer population. 

No wild animals have tested positive for the disease to date, according to a news release from the ministry. 

The 17 municipalities where the relaxed rules apply are:

  • Grenville
  • Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours
  • Notre-Dame-de-la-Paix 
  • Fassett
  • Namur
  • Saint-Émile-de-Suffolk
  • Amherst
  • Huberdeau
  • Arundel
  • Barkmere
  • Montcalm
  • Lac-des-Seize-Îles
  • Wentworth-Nord 
  • Brownsburg-Chatham
  • Grenville-sur-la-Rouge
  • Harrington 
  • Boileau


Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

with files from Radio-Canada's Boris Proulx and Denis Babin