The team at work
Wildlife conservation officers have the delicate and complex role of maintaining the fragile balance between humans, wildlife and their habitats. Their motto (protéger, éduquer, prévenir) is a concise explanation of their mandate: protect, educate, prevent.
About 360 wildlife conservation officers are dispersed among more than 80 service centres across Québec. They are responsible for applying laws and regulations governing wildlife in Québec. In particular, these laws affect the conservation and enhancement of wildlife species and the conservation of habitats. With the legal status of peace officers, the powers of wildlife conservation officers include the following:
- searching and;
Day and night, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, officers work throughout Québec and under all weather conditions.
As part of their work, officers are constantly fighting against poaching:
- Each year, about 7000 infractions are found by wildlife conservation officers: nighttime hunting, possession of game or fish beyond permitted amounts, hunting, fishing or trapping activities during prohibited periods, etc.
- Wildlife fines for first offences vary from $250 to $1825. Fines can reach $40,000 for non-authorized work in wildlife habitats, in particular in fish habitats.
Here is an overview of the work of agents:
- They carry out investigations to identify people responsible for wildlife poaching.
- They inspect work done in fish habitats to ensure that they are not disturbed or destroyed.
- They carry out searches and seizures during efforts to eliminate poaching activity.
Each year, officers distribute hundreds of kilos of seized game meat to charitable organizations who distribute it to the less fortunate in our communities.
- Many of their assignments relate to verifying if animals in captivity are treated as required.
- They watch out for the prohibited hunting of migratory birds.
- They carry out prevention and conservation activities related to threatened and vulnerable species in Québec regions.
- They ensure hunting, fishing and trapping agreements signed by the gouvernement du Québec with Indigenous communities are respected.
As part of their functions, wildlife conservation officers manage and supervise wildlife conservation assistants and land guardians working for managers of structured wildlife areas, such as wildlife reserves, national parks, community wildlife areas as well as outfitters and controlled harvesting zones. These associates provide important help for wildlife conservation in Québec.
Indeed, the work of officers is quite diverse, and varies according to the seasons.
Spring is the spawning season for several fish species. Officers:
- Monitor spawning beds;
- Ensure that fishers respect regulations;
- Undertake inspections related to commercial fishing;
They also pay special attention to protection of the wild leek, a vulnerable plant species that grows in the forests of southern Québec whose sale is prohibited.
During the summer, officers are assigned to various matters, including recreational fishing and the conservation of wildlife habitats:
- They ensure compliance of development and construction work in fish habitats to ensure the habitat is not affected;
- They also ensure the protection of species considered threatened or vulnerable, including fish as well as birds and mammals;
Fall is the most important season for thousands of sport hunters. That’s why officers visit Québec forests, paying particular attention to respect for rules related to hunting big game, such as:
- white-tailed deer;
- caribou and;
- black bear.
The end of fall marks the beginning of the trapping season. During this period, officers are busy verifying that traps used by fur animal trappers are in compliance.
Officers also collaborate with police departments to ensure the safety of citizens and their property with regard to unwanted animals such as bears and other big mammals that sometimes wander into inhabited areas.
During the winter, in addition to monitoring certain key areas (parks, large animal wintering areas, etc.) officers:
- monitor ice-fishing activities and;
- inform fishers of applicable regulations.
They use this time of the year to carry out many investigations based on observations and information collected during preceding months.
Officers also visit schools to raise awareness among young people about the need to preserve and protect wildlife resources. They meet with more than 30,000 students per year, as part of the La faune et vous [Wildlife and you] program. Officers also participate in certain activities for the general public, such as exhibitions, fairs and shows, to inform citizens of changes in regulations and to sensitize them to the conservation of wildlife and its habitats.
Prevention and awareness-building
Throughout the year, officers carry out prevention and sensitization actions during various training programs for new hunters and trappers, while ensuring a presence among young people, in particular during the Fête de la pêche.
Many of them are also involved in their communities by organizing or volunteering at fund-raising activities for charitable organizations that help needy people in their respective regions.
Specialized technological equipment
Poaching causes significant harm to wildlife, whether through the illegal capture of animals and fish, or through the destruction of wildlife habitats. While poachers are using increasingly more sophisticated technological equipment, wildlife conservation officers are also updating their knowledge to use equally specialized and sophisticated equipment to be effective in their work. They also have access to a variety of vehicles, allowing them to cover their work territory, such as snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, bicycles, trucks and boats of all kinds.
Surveillance techniques have changed and, consequently, even if it seems like there is no officer around… he may be quite close! As officers often say: “Just because you can’t see us, doesn’t mean we aren’t around!”