Dundas Valley is not a happy hunting groundthe Hamilton Spectator
Part of the Dundas Valley Conservation Area in Ancaster is closed to the public for the rest of December to allow deer hunting by natives from the Six Nations Haudenosaunee Confederacy.
The decision to close a three-square kilometre chunk of the conservation area near Jerseyville Road and the Morgan Firestone Arena was made with no public fanfare by the Hamilton Conservation Authority.
At the entrance to one trail at the bottom of Martin’s Road, a couple of small paper safety notices, with an accompanying map, are posted to trees, announcing that the trails are closed until December 31.
The decision to close the section from Martin’s Road to Paddy Greene Road, between Power Line and Jerseyville roads, was made last week, according to Steve Miazga, chief administrative officer of the conservation authority, “at the request of the Haudenosaunee, who informed us that they would be harvesting in that area which is the far west end of Dundas Valley.
“We have played it low-key because we don’t wish to attract any further attention in terms of poachers to our situation and we do know that we have poachers in the Dundas Valley,” added Miazga.
Miazga said an agreement was reached to respect the treaty rights of the Haudenosaunee, who will cull the deer both for food and because deer are an important part of mid-winter ceremonies that will take place in early January.
“Quite frankly, they’ve been very forthright with us and have informed us of when and where they will be conducting their harvest in terms of their food-gathering and their ceremonies,” said Miazga. “We respect their treaty rights and therefore we have decided that we have to post those trails.”
View Dundas Valley Hunting zone in a larger map
Paul Williams, a member of the committee working on hunting issues on behalf of the Haudenosaunee, said the arrangement balances treaty rights and public safety.
“We’re having to reconcile social issues, legal issues on both sides, conservation issues and certainly we work with the conservation authority to identify the places where the deer can be taken with the greatest safety, the greatest benefit in terms of conservation and the least possibility of inconvenience to the public,” said Williams.
Williams also noted that there was no need for public fanfare because the issue of treaty rights and hunting is well-established for the Haudenosaunee.
“We do what we can to avoid conflict, but this isn’t something new,” said Williams.
“This is something we’ve done with other agencies before. It’s not secretive.”
Both Miazga and Williams refused to speculate if members of the confederacy would have proceeded with the deer hunt if an agreement with the HCA hadn’t been reached.
Williams also wouldn’t speculate on the number of Six Nations hunters who might participate in the hunt.
“It’s not as if hundreds of people are descending on the valley,” he added.
The two sides have studied the deer population in the area and concluded that there is an overabundance of deer. The HCA’s study conducted in 2009, based on standards set by the Ministry of Natural Resources, suggests the west end of the Dundas Valley area has three times the appropriate number of deer.
Only bow and crossbow hunting will be allowed on the HCA land until Dec. 31, and both the MNR and Hamilton police have been informed about the hunting decision.
The decision to close the trail was not greeted happily by some Ancaster residents out walking their dogs Sunday morning in the conservation area.
“I’m disgusted with it,” said one man, who declined to identify himself. “They have no business being here, as far as I’m concerned.
“It’s like a turkey shoot for them.”
Joanne and John Renaud, who have enjoyed the area for about two decades, worried about their safety.
“I don’t like the idea,” said Joanne.
“You wonder, ‘Am I going to be mistaken for an animal?’” added John.
Rob Martin, who has used the trail for about 10 years, said he was very surprised when he noticed the warning signs.
“That’s way too dangerous,” said Martin. “If they see my dogs walking along, are they going to take a shot?
“I have to assume they’re not that stupid.”
Miazga acknowledged he expects the conservation authority’s decision will be met by some anger.
“I can appreciate their concern but nevertheless we, as the HCA, have to weigh the issue of public safety and treaty rights and in consideration of both, it’s only prudent that we close those trails,” said Miazga.
Williams said he also expects some people will react angrily.
“What we’ve found is there are some people who will be unhappy, no matter how human beings take deer,” said Williams.
“They’re also unhappy about people eating cows.”