Alberta Fish and Game Association fine with ban on spear hunting

Click to play video: 'Hunting education group questions ethics of bear spearing' Hunting education group questions ethics of bear spearing
WATCH ABOVE: The video has sparked controversy and has prompted an investigation by Alberta Fish and Wildlife. An American hunter killing a bear in Alberta with a spear is raising questions about the use of both spears and bait in the sport. Sarah Offin has the latest on the investigation and the fallout – Aug 16, 2016

WARNING: This article and video contains graphic content that some may find disturbing.

Since there’s not a huge demand for spears and in order to improve the public perception of hunting, a major game association in Alberta supports the province’s decision to ban the weapon.

“It wasn’t something that people were asking for, as far as having an ability to hunt with a spear,” Wayne Lowry, president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, explained. “We did have it on the radar as far as correcting regulations to deal with it. That was coming but unfortunately it didn’t come quite quick enough to prevent the negativity surrounding this particular event.”

On Monday, a video that appeared to show an American hunter spearing a black bear in Alberta reached 208,000 views on YouTube. The 13-minute video, posted on June 5 to the Bowmar Bowhunting YouTube account, was later changed to a private setting so it was no longer public.

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READ MORE: Video of hunter killing Alberta bear with spear draws death threats; provincial ban coming 

The video shows a black bear approach a bait bin placed in a wooded glen.  A man, identified as American hunter Josh Bowmar, throws a spear equipped with a GoPro camera at the animal, piercing its stomach. The video shows the crew finding the carcass the next morning.

The footage sparked widespread outrage, with many commenters posting harsh criticism and even death threats.

“My initial reaction is questioning why there is such a big reaction to it,” Lowry said Tuesday.

“I guess the biggest reason is is that hunting by way of a spear is a very unusual method of hunting and we haven’t really experienced any of that up in Alberta.”

Lowry believes the short distance between the hunter and bear and the fact that he attached a camera to the spear heightened the reaction.

“A lot of people have a dim view of hunting in general,” he said. “When they see the close proximity between the game animal and the hunter, I think that it becomes very real when they’re that close together and you can see a pretty immediate reaction from the animal.”

READ MORE: ‘This guy is crazy’: Spear hunting already illegal in Ontario 

“The fact that he had a GoPro camera attached to the spear, I think he kind of took it to an extreme. I think that’s part of the reason why it garnered so much attention,” Lowry said.

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He explained not witnessing an animal’s death is common in hunting. Lowry said it can take 30 to 40 minutes for an animal to bleed out and die after sustaining a vital wound.

In this particular instance, the type of wound and the short distance between where it was speared and where its body was found indicates he died quickly.

“Based on the injuries on this animal, it would have died in less than a minute.”

READ MORE: Hunter that killed bear with spear technically not in the wrong 

On Monday afternoon, the province announced it had been working on an update to Alberta’s hunting regulations for some time. It said it would introduce updated policy in the fall that would include a ban on spears.

“The type of archaic hunting seen in the recently posted video of a hunter spearing a black bear, allegedly in Alberta, is unacceptable,” a statement from the Minstry of Environment and Parks read.

Lowry believes, in most cases, the choice of weapon should be the hunter’s individual choice, but supports the province’s decision to ban spears.

“We’re trying to create a positive image of hunting and enjoying the outdoors…It’s really not something that people have been looking for as far as a choice of weapon to hunt with anyways, so let’s just go ahead and ban as a gesture of good faith.”

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The Alberta Fish and Game Association was consulted as the updated policy was being developed.

The ministry also asked Fish and Wildlife officers to investigate the bear-spearing incident “to determine if charges are warranted under existing laws.”

“Any investigation in general, the officers in our branch would, depending on the situation, obtain witness statements, interview any suspects, collect evidence,” Fish and Wildlife’s Miles Groves explained. “If the investigation goes to the next step, there might be some forensic analysis or search warrants.”

He said investigators could also look into the possibility of waste or spoilage of the animal’s hide.

“If we receive a complaint against the Wildlife Act or the regulations, we would look to ensure that the wildlife was hunted within open season, the person was licensed appropriately and was in an area where that hunting was permitted,” Groves added.

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