Wednesday, 16 November 2011 08:19

Parks Canada reminds visitors you can look, but don’t touch

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By Susan Quinlan
Waterton Lakes National Park
Although most visitors to national parks know they’re not allowed to remove anything related to nature, such has not been the case when it comes to shed antlers in Waterton Lakes National Park.

“We did catch a person from southern Alberta taking antlers out of the park,” said Waterton Lakes National Park communications spokesperson, Janice Smith.

“The park warden watched this person get in a kayak and cross one of the lakes in the park, then search around until he found an antler. He got back in his kayak then put the antler in his vehicle.”

That individual even admitted to the park warden he was planning on selling the antler, said Smith.

She was puzzled by that prospect for a number reasons including the fact it is illegal and definitely not lucrative. The going rate for shed antlers is about $7 a pound.

The individual has since been prosecuted and had to pay a $345 fine, but the amount of that fine is actually at the judge’s discretion, said Smith, and relative to the value of the item taken. One may face a fine of up to $25,000, said Smith, and if the perpetrator is a business, that fine may exceed $25,000.

“We’ve had growing concern … we have about a thousand elk here and we have not been finding any antlers.”

Smith explained porcupines, mice and other small rodents gnaw on the antlers, which provide those species with calcium and other minerals.

“One reason we wanted to do this story is that in Alberta, you can do this (shed hunting), but not in our national parks. You can’t take anything out. If you take it away, others can’t see it; it affects the visitor experience. And of course, there’s the wildlife; (the antlers) are quite a significant nutrient ... I don’t think I’ve ever found an antler that has not been chewed; they go back into the ecosystem in one way or another.”

Parks Canada recently requested an amendment to the fines levied for those violating park rules, resulting in a significant increase.

“Riding Mountain (National Park) in Manitoba has been having huge problems with people killing black bears to sell their gallbladders.”

Although most have heard of exotic foreign markets for these items, it’s likely news to many people that Canada’s national parks are a source of supply for those markets.

“With the antlers, at least they’re shed, but there are some that hunt them just to sell the antlers. Our park wardens are pretty vigilant at this time of the year anyway (hunting season) ... We’re more concerned with people being aware of the different rules, and the benefits (of following those rules) for the ecosystem.”

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