News / Calgary

Alberta reviewing prohibition of pack dogs while hunting big game

Imprecise wording in existing legislation blamed for conflating pack dogs with pursuit dogs.

T.J. Schwanky and one of his dogs, which he can’t legally bring along as a companion while hunting in Alberta, a common practice in other jurisdictions.

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T.J. Schwanky and one of his dogs, which he can’t legally bring along as a companion while hunting in Alberta, a common practice in other jurisdictions.

A prominent Cochrane hunter says he’s “guardedly optimistic” the new Alberta government will change what he describes as an antiquated law forbidding hunters from being accompanied by pack dogs while going after big game.

T.J. Schwanky, a writer and host for Outdoor Quest TV, said he’s not aware of any other mountain-hunting jurisdiction with such a rule.

The province recently completed a months-long public consultation over its wildlife regulations, including the use of pack dogs, which some hunters like to have at their side to help carry weight in and out of the backcountry, and to provide companionship on multi-day solo trips.

Schwanky said pack dogs can also reduce the likelihood of human-bear encounters, like the one that resulted in a solo hunter’s death in September 2014 in Kananaskis.

“It’s an early warning system,” Schwanky told Metro after that incident. “A dog is certainly going to sense a bear’s presence long before you do.”

At the time, a spokesperson for the former Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development department said evidence was mixed on pack dogs, noting some experts believe “the presence of a dog can antagonize a bear,” as well.

Charity Wallace, a public affairs officer with the newly formed Alberta Environment and Parks department, said approximately 3,300 people took part in the public engagement.

“The engagement process has been concluded and the results of the engagement are now under review,” Wallace told Metro in an email. “Once the review has been completed, recommendations will be put forward and presented to government.”

Schwanky said he doubts the pack-dogs issue, itself, will be a high priority for the new government but hopes the rule will change as part of a broader reform of wildlife regulations.

Pack dogs, he noted, are different from pursuit dogs, which are used to help track game, something that Alberta only allows for cougar hunting.

Schwanky blames imprecise wording in the province’s legislation for getting pack dogs caught up with the prohibition of pursuit dogs when hunting other game.

“The idea of the law is to prevent pursuit dogs, and I’m totally in agreement with that,” he said.

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