Overall compliance very good in caribou habitant

Local conservation officers charge snowmobilers with entering closed areas

In last week’s issue Blue River heli-ski operator Mike Wiegele said that staff at his business had observed about 20 apparent violations by snowmobilers so far this season. Many of them had been reported to the authorities but the violations just keep on happening, he complained.

Those reports would have gone through the emergency coordination center (ECC) in Victoria, said Clearwater-based conservation officer Warren Chayer.

During the past season they received 12 reports from ECC of snowmobiles possibly going into closed areas.

Those 12 reports resulted in four charges being laid and one more still being under investigation.

If convicted, the violators could face fines of $230.

Two of the reports proved to be unfounded, as no violation had occurred.

The rest remain unattended or unsolved.

It generally takes at least an hour on the highway to reach the snowmobiling areas from Clearwater, Chayer noted, and then there could be additional travel time to reach the actual areas by snowmobile.

Added to that would be the difficulty in identifying which individuals were involved.

Most of the allegations involved entering areas that have been closed to protect caribou, he said.

Others involve snowmobilers going into areas that have been restricted under a Section 58 Recreation Closure. These would include areas with restricted access to protect recreational users, such as heli-skiers.

In addition to the reports received through the ECC, local COs have caught six other snowmobilers by doing proactive patrols. One other incident involved an immediate response to a direct complaint.

“We also issued a couple of charges and a couple of warnings for caribou violations as a result of helicopter patrols,” Chayer said.

The local conservation officer noted that most offenses seem to involve going into the closed areas less than one kilometer, rather than traveling through for kilometer after kilometer.

“It’s like they’re playing just inside the boundary,” he said.

Chayer also said that overall the compliance by most snowmobilers is very good.

This is especially true for areas where caribou are present.

“Quite often when we’re doing on-the-ground snowmobile patrols, we see tracks where people go up to the signs (marking closed areas) and then turn around,” he said.

Chayer noted that, during a typical weekend, there could be 100 or more snowmobiles in each of the roughly five sledding areas in the upper North Thompson and Robson valleys.

 

Those who commit violations are only a small percentage of those involved in the sport, he felt.