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Deer carcasses and shotgun shells found in posted no-hunting area of Municipal Forest Reserve

Deer carcasses and shotgun shells are turning up in an area of the Municipal Forest Reserve that is posted off-limits to hunting.

sixmountains.ca has documented bones and hides of black-tailed deer at several sites within the MFR’s Grace Road section, which totals about 245 hectares near the Chemainus River.

Question is: are the carcasses evidence of poaching, or is the Grace Road section just a convenient dumping ground?

A municipal sign posted near the entrance to the Grace Road section off Mount Sicker Road reads: “No Hunting Permitted.”

Numerous spent shotgun shells are evident on the ground. Stamps on the shells read: Federal rifled slug, one ounce, 77 mm.

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A representative of Bucky’s Sports Shop in Duncan said that shotgun slugs are single projectiles and are used for deer and bear hunting. They would not typically be used for target practice, although a hunter might take one or two shots to “sight in” a shotgun.

Regardless, the municipal bylaw has not identified the Grace Road section as a permitted firearms discharge area.

While the carcasses might suggest poachers, one cannot rule out the possibility of deer being shot legally elsewhere and brought to the Grace Road section to be skinned and/or butchered.

Note, too, that Indigenous people have special hunting rights.

The Bings Creek Recycle Centre, operated by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, does not accept game hides and carcasses, but the Nanaimo regional landfill in Cedar does — for free.

“It is not uncommon for animal remains to be found dumped throughout the MFR, especially on side roads off mainlines,” says municipal forester Shaun Mason.

“Finding animal remains in these locations doesn’t necessarily mean there is hunting in the area and would be difficult to associate the animal remains with hunting in the same area unless hunting is directly observed.”

Why the Grace Road section is off-limits to hunting is not clear, but it dates back to a bylaw adopted in October 2000. The section is frequented by hikers and horseback riders and is much smaller than Mount Sicker or Mount Prevost, where hunting is permitted.

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Wildlife poaching is an ongoing concern in the Cowichan Valley.

In 2020, 15 elk were found dead in one month. Another three elk were found dead last month near Cowichan Lake. And a hunter was fined $5,100 last October for elk poaching near Chemainus.

“I keep hearing about all the carcasses laying around, so I guess somebody is poaching,” said Dave Alexander, president of the Chemainus Rod & Gun Club.

If you have information on illegal hunting and fishing, or other environmental offences, call the Report All Poachers and Polluters hotline at 1-877-952-7277.

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— Larry Pynn, Jan. 4, 2024

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