British Columbia has now amended the Wildlife Act to prohibit hunting with drones, the B.C. government announced last week.
The B.C. Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson, clarified that the change means that drones cannot be used in any way for hunting in the Province. The announcement states that it is illegal to “operate or possess a drone, or use data obtained by a drone, while on a hunting or trapping expedition. It is also now illegal for a third party to use a drone to help a hunter or trapper.”
Drones have been used not to shoot animals, but to track them from the air without spooking them. Prior to the change it was already illegal to hunt with a helicopter; while the government took the position that a drone was just a different type of aircraft the law has now been clarified. “We have to make sure that our regulations keep pace with technology. These changes help ensure that the rules are in line with what most hunters already practise,” says Thomson. Infractions of the law are taken seriously: hunting with a helicopter or drone can result in a minimum fine of $2,500 – but a first conviction could result in fines of up to $250,000 and jail time of up to 2 years.
The announcement says that the change is supported by numerous hunting organizations, including the B.C. Wildlife Federation, B.C. Trappers Association and Guide Outfitters Association of B.C.
Jim Glaciar, president, B.C. Wildlife Federation, said that using drones is just not the done thing: “Using drones to help track your prey just isn’t part of the hunting culture in British Columbia. Hunters are respectful of wildlife and their habitat and very supportive of the steps government is taking to prevent hunters from using drones.” Scott Ellis, executive director, Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., agreed: “Hunters come to British Columbia to experience the wild and beautiful backcountry and participate in Fair Chase hunting. Drones undermine the experience people have come to expect when they hunt big game in this province.”
Critics of using drones to hunt animals say that it gives hunters an unfair advantage, and is not in the spirit of “fair chase.” Other provinces in Canada, as well as some states in the US have already banned the practice.