Who “owns” Alberta’s wildlife? Should guns be allowed in K-country?

On Sep 22, 2000, Nakoda, the alpha female of the Peter Lougheed wolf pack, was gunned down in K-country by an elk hunter looking for a momentary thrill. Nakoda left behind eight pups and her mate who all disappeared within weeks of her killing. Rather than having a healthy pack of wolves helping to control ungulate populations, we have 10 dead wolves and a trophy on someone’s wall, not to mention the danger associated with guns being allowed in a popular recreation area.

Let’s be clear from the get-go: I am not against ethical hunting, but I am unequivocally opposed to trophy hunting, hunting derbies, and making animals suffer needlessly.

Bighorn sheep

All citizens of Alberta should have a say in the management of our wildlife, not just the 2% who hunt. They are a natural resource which belongs to the people of this province.  As well, I believe there should be a public debate about guns and hunting being allowed in K-country. What better place to discuss these issues than among folks who are stakeholders in Kananaskis, namely the xc skiers who read this blog?


I understand immediately where someone is coming from when they invoke this big word that’s easy to mispell. Under the previous topic, Momma grizzly bear speaks out,” Brad Nelson is disappointed that I would display the post from momma grizzly. He thinks it’s “a trite first person anthropization of a tragic encounter between a wild animal and a human.” I thought it was a creative and effective way to give my readers a perspective on this unfortunate situation that wouldn’t be available in the mainstream media, and that illustrates the inherent danger that our bears(and wolves) face because hunting is allowed in K-country. Indeed, a bear could attack a hiker, a fisherman, or a skier but none of these recreationists carry AR-10 rifles in search of a trophy. 

Brad goes on to say, “using the event as a platform to argue anti-hunting views is offensive to me given the scope of this website.” The media, with millions of readers is brimming with stories about this hunter’s death, followed by hundreds of very insulting comments from people opposed to hunting. This event gives rise to some important questions that are relevant to readers of this blog, and we’ve had a much more respectful debate than what you’ll read in the Herald or the Sun.

I find it somewhat amusing when a reader tells me what the scope of this blog should be. To remove any uncertainty, this blog’s purview includes all issues concerning K-country and the implications of government decisions on my readers. To illustrate, I’ve raised awareness regarding many issues which are peripheral to xc skiers, but nevertheless, have some impact upon them. For example, there were many postings on here concerning the floods of 2013.

Bear tracks on Tyrwhitt(photo from April 12, 2006)

Bear tracks on Tyrwhitt ski trail in K-country

I imagine it makes trophy hunters uncomfortable to hear an animal speaking to them. I don’t buy the anthropomorphising shtick, because that is simply the tiresome argument among those who want to continue their exploitation of animals, and their attempt to shut down the debate. Animals undoubtedly can suffer and feel pain, as anyone with a dog will attest. Rejecting the fact that animals have emotions can make it easier for people to continue exploiting them without worrying about the ethical implications.

Over on SkiHere’s Facebook page, Liz responded to momma grizzly’s post, One fall while hiking up to Picklejar Lake I was astounded as two hunters with rifles came walking down the trail. I thought: How can this be allowed?” 

Trophy hunting

In a survey of hunters conducted for the provincial government in 2008, “a large majority of respondents (89%) were not supportive of trophy hunting, while 5% were supportive and 5% were neutral.” The above survey also lays to rest a popular myth that hunters are avid conservationists. “Only 14% said they contributed to groups involved in conservation activities and only 8% said they participated as volunteers in the area of conservation and hunting.”

Over on SkiHere’s Twitter, Wendy tweeted “I was shocked when I learned that hunting is allowed in K country”

The bottom line

There are risks associated with venturing into the wilderness, but that’s not a reason to ban everyone from grizzly country as Brad Nelson suggests. Go prepared and aware. The bottom line of momma grizzly bear’s argument is that guns in K-country present a danger to the grizzly bear population, as is so aptly illustrated by the defensive shooting and killing by Joe Lucas in 2008.

Jim Pissot wrote in the Calgary Herald, “traveling quietly, alone, and focused on something else in bear country has its consequences. Hope that some day SOON, “experienced outdoorsman” will mean someone carrying — and knowing how to use — bear pepper spray.


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  1. Trust me Bob, our eco-politics are not that unlike. My point was not meant to be either heated or controversial, [spelling errors included]. Truly, I have been on the sharp end of too many human-trauma incidents that I cannot view the world from a cartoon version of events. |It much easier for me to empathize with the family of Mr Cross, than the imaginary thoughts of the bear that killed him].
    While I appreciate your attempt to present an argument, I found it offensive based on the trivialization of a human death to make the argument. In it’s simplest form, that is my objection.

  2. Up until a couple of years ago, Sunday was a “safe day” for non hunters to enjoy those parts of Kananaskis where hunting was permitted from Monday to Saturday. The government changed this policy for no apparent reason and without input from any users of the area. It’s a completely stupid policy that should be reversed. Perhaps the new Premier and hopefully more responsive cabinet will take the necessary action?
    And just so that readers know, hunting is NOT permitted in Provincial Parks (like Peter Lougheed, Spray Valley, Sheep Valley, Canmore Nordic Centre). Hunting is permitted in Wildland Provincial Parks (like Elbow-Sheep, Bluerock or Don Getty Wildland Parks) and in Forest Land Use Zones, managed by ESRD.

    • Spray Valley Provincial Park was where Nakoda was shot and killed, but before it was a provincial park. I think it was part of the Evan Thomas recreation area back then. Too late for Nakoda, but it was a good move by the government to finally protect this area.

    • None of the park boundaries or rules of hunting affect what poachers do however. Unfortunately there’s probably more illegal hunting going on in kananaskis and the mountain parks then we know about.

  3. I received this email from Carol:
    “I appreciate and respect your love for wildlife in all its forms. I would offer this observation, that the disconnect between humankind and the rest of creation is growing bigger as a result of people’s disrespect for one another, their ignorance of the interconnectedness of all creation, and the attitude that I should be able to have whatever I can get or want, not caring or weighing the consequences. Hopefully, the concern and interest shown in such events as the grizzly bear killing the hunter will raise more awareness and lead to something better for our wildlife.”

  4. Hiking in kananaskis during hunting season is dangerous! I’m not as concerned about bears and other wildlife as I am with getting shot at! Always be sure to wear bright clothing in the fall so you don’t end up getting your head shot off.
    Yet another reason to ban hunting in kananaskis-public safety!

  5. Well said Bob! Years ago my friend and I met a couple of “hunters” near Mist ridge who we’re boasting about the elk they had just shot on the other side of the ridge. One had the antlers they had cut off the animal on his pack. When I enquired about the rest of the animal they said they had run out of time to bring the meat down and would return later to remove it. A month later I was in the same area and was sickened to find the animal’s carcass where they had left it. It had obviously been left where it fell and had been picked over by whatever animals and birds were in the area. I felt so bad that this magnificent creature was killed not for his meat but so his antlers could decorate someone’s man cave. Trophy hunting is disgusting. On a lighter note if anyone wants to read an interesting book about hunting in Kananaskis try to find “Kananaskis Ram, a story from Kananaskis country” by Ernst Hanisch (Rocky mountain books). It’s been out of print for a while but if you happen upon it it makes a good read.

    • I hadn’t heard of this book, but it sounds enticing. Looks like it’s available on Amazon. “The bittersweet true story of how the author, a POW at Camp #130 in the Kananaskis Valley during the 1940s, first met his three-legged ram as a young animal, and how over the next 20 years, up to the last tragic encounter, the lives of hunter and hunted became connected by a mysterious thread. The reader shares the moment of truth that forever changed the hunter who pursued the Kananaskis Ram.” Kananaskis Ram

    • Also your local branch of CPL. Make sure you search either by title or by
      Hanisch, Ernest W.

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