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Shooting 12 elk legal, province says

NO laws were broken in the shooting of 12 elk by aboriginal hunters just after Christmas, the province said this week.

Conservation officers determined the hunters had permission to access the private property near Duck Mountain Provincial Park and there was no evidence for laying charges.

However, the hunters have been asked to submit samples of the animals to test for chronic wasting disease (CWD).

The hunters have said they only took the animals they need to feed their families.

Conservation and Water Stewardship Minister Gord Mackintosh said Tuesday the province will also conduct a survey of the area as soon as possible to reassess the health of its elk population.

Mackintosh was travelling to Swan River to meet with local advisers on the matter and on what more can be done to help the province's moose population recover. Several game-hunting areas are closed to moose hunting, where numbers have declined due to over-hunting, winter ticks and predation.

The killing of the 12 elk in only a few minutes by First Nations hunters raised a firestorm on the Internet as video and photos of the dead animals spread in minutes.

Critics said the province has to do more research to get a better understanding of moose, elk, caribou and deer populations throughout the province and enforce sustainable hunting among all harvesters, including First Nations and Métis hunters.

Vince Crichton, a retired manager of game, fur and problem wildlife with Manitoba Conservation, said he didn't expect charges to be laid.

Crichton said he supported a move by Mackintosh's office to extend the province's ban on deer and elk feeding, including baiting, to all hunters in the bovine tuberculosis and CWD surveillance zones.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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