A cow was shot over the weekend on a farm located between Rivers and Rapid City, inflaming the controversy over illegal hunting practices in southwestern Manitoba.
Colin Hunter set off to feed his herd Saturday afternoon at the southwest section of his 1,200-acre cattle and sheep operation when he discovered a motionless cow.
Its right eye was punctured; a small pool of blood, emanating from the eye socket, leaked onto the snow.
Without any sign of a struggle, he assumed the cow was shot.
Colin’s wife, Ann, was disturbed to find out what happened.
"I mean, we’ve had calves die; you have livestock and you have deadstock," Ann described, "but you don’t expect to find somebody shot your cow."
The cow was six weeks from giving birth.
Dismayed by the killing, Ann wrote on Facebook that one of the family’s cattle was picked off.
The post was shared more than 1,000 times by Monday morning. An attached picture showed the carcass picked up by a tractor’s bucket.
Hearing gunshots is nothing new around the Hunters’ homestead, where hunters are known to roam. But this seemingly random killing has them worried.
The fog was thick. No footprints were noticeable, suggesting the gunshot came from afar, during a period of heavy fog which made visibility poor.
Nobody received permission to hunt on the family’s land at the time.
"It’s concerning," said Ann, who is not against hunting. "We ride our horses around, the kids go down riding, it could have been worse."
The gunshot — which the family did not hear — could have pierced the cow between 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday afternoon, Ann said.
Though there is no evidence this was an example of night hunting, it was certainly illegal as livestock cannot be targeted by hunters.
She feels cases of illicit hunting, like her family witnessed this weekend, should be publicized.
"I think if there aren’t examples, then people are going to say it doesn’t concern us," Ann said.
On Monday, two conservation officers were at the Hunter’s residence, inspecting the cow for a lodged bullet. They removed a slice of the animal’s skull to search for ammunition, and while no conclusive trace was found, tissue behind the eye was consistent with an abrasion.
The conservation officers, who weren’t permitted to answer media questions, told the family they believe the cow was shot in the eye, with the bullet exploding on impact, said Ann’s daughter, Katie.
Amid a season of widespread illegal hunting in southwestern Manitoba, rural landowners in the region have spoken up en masse. They organized a community meeting and made overtures to the provincial government, which ramped up enforcement efforts this season.
A group of reeves and councillors representing at least six rural municipalities met with provincial officials late last year and will again today. The landowners want night hunting banned altogether.
Currently, night hunting is only permitted for indigenous hunters on Crown lands or private lands where they received permission.
There is at least one example of livestock being shot in recent months.
In late November, two head of cattle were shot overnight near Virden. It’s believed the shooter thought they were aiming at wildlife.
Manitoba Conservation said Monday they don’t keep track of livestock killings, since the animals are considered property and thus fall under the responsibility of RCMP. Police did not immediately reply to a request for comment Monday.
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