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Alberta moves to ban spear-hunting

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EDMONTON—Spear-hunting is being banned in Alberta following outcry after a viral video showed an American hunter killing a black bear with a spear.

The province has updated hunting rules to ensure big-game animals do not suffer unnecessarily and to discourage reckless hunting.

“Albertans know that spear-hunting is not safe,” Environment Minister Shannon Phillips said in an interview yesterday.

“It's not humane because most hunters know that the chances of getting close enough to hit that moving target with big game, and sufficient accuracy and force to kill immediately, is next to zero.”

The government pledged to change the rules after the graphic online video of the bear's death surfaced in 2016.

The video, posted on YouTube by hunter Josh Bowmar, showed a bear being baited before the spear, with a camera attached, was launched at the animal from 11-14 metres away.

The video also showed the man celebrating when the bear was hit.

After the video caused uproar on social media, the province consulted with hunting groups while Alberta Environment and Parks received more than 3,900 responses from the public about the new regulations.

Phillips said most supported the prohibition.

“Of the about 118,000 who hunt big game in Alberta every year, over 90 percent of those folks are Alberta residents,” Phillips noted.

“We are really just reflecting what Albertans want.”

Spears and spear-throwing tools such as atlatls no longer are allowed for big-game hunting.

Rifles, shotguns, and conventional archery gear still will be legal.

“We support the government in this recent update to the regulations regarding equipment appropriate for hunting big game,” Robert Gruszecki, president of the Alberta Hunter Education Instructors Association, said in a release yesterday.

The maximum penalty for using a prohibited weapon is $50,000 fine and one year in jail.

If threatened or endangered species are involved, the penalty doubles.

The new rules also will require larger shotgun pellets to ensure the animal is killed quickly.

The updated rules come into effect in time for the 2018 hunting season.

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