This week’s accidental shooting of a dirt biker near Cat Lake should be a “big concern” to locals because it highlights the potential for serious injury that can occur when people start shooting guns in areas crisscrossed by recreational trails, says the head of the Squamish Dirt Bike Association (SDBA).
One or more members of a group that was out target shooting on Sunday (Dec. 9) may be facing charges of careless use of a firearm after a man who was riding his motorcycle in the woods nearby was struck by an errant bullet.
The victim suffered only a welt and bruising in his chest — apparently avoiding more serious injury only because he was wearing protective riding gear, Squamish RCMP Sgt. Wayne Pride wrote in a statement.
The victim and a friend were riding their motorcycles on the Cheekye Forest Service Road (FSR) at around 1:15 p.m. when the incident occurred, Pride wrote. They had observed a number of campers target shooting in the woods. The bikers later heard a number of shots and the victim, 35, was struck by what appeared to have been a .22-calibre bullet.
“The victim’s gear stopped the bullet,” Pride wrote, adding that police located those involved and seized the rifle.
“All are co-operating with investigators and charges of careless use of a firearm [are] being evaluated,” he wrote.
The area in question is mostly Crown land, but it’s not clear whether it was within District of Squamish boundaries. If it was, the discharge of firearms would be prohibited, Insp. Chris Doyle of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said on Wednesday (Dec. 12).
If it was outside the DOS, target shooting would be legal if done in a safe manner, Sgt. Peter Busink of the B.C. Conservation Officer Service said. The Firearms Act carries restrictions against the “careless” use of such weapons, he said.
“That’s going to mean a lot of different things,” Busink said.
Added Doyle, “Under the provincial Wildlife Act, if you’re hunting with a firearm you have to do so with consideration to the safety of others.”
There are also restrictions on shooting from within a certain proximity of provincial highways, he said.
SDBA president Ed Alder told The Chief on Tuesday (Dec. 11) that the group wants the victim — whom police did not identify — to know that he has the organization’s support and that efforts are being made to educate the public about the dangers of discharging firearms in areas frequented by other types of recreational users.
He said the SDBA and the Squamish Off Road Cycling Association (SORCA) have been working with the RCMP, conservation officers, provincial and local officials to put up signs in areas where conflicts may occur stating that they are “high recreational use areas.”
Alder, who described the victim of last weekend’s incident as “very fortunate,” said that unless additional steps are taken to educate the public, last weekend’s shooting probably won’t be the last such incident in the woods surrounding Squamish.
A few months ago, one SDBA member encountered a group from the city that was out target shooting not far from Cat Lake.
“The person said, ‘Well, I’m shooting into an area where there’s nothing there,’ and we told them, ‘No, there are trails up there and on those trails are people,’” Alder said. “Obviously part of this is the jackass element from the city who thinks it’s wilderness. I’m sure the intention is not to put people in harm’s way, but there’s not a lot of thought that goes into what people are doing out there.”
Alder said local B.C. Forestry officials have begun trying to identify areas frequented by target shooters so that when an incident does occur, the RCMP or conservation officers can get there more quickly.
Busink said he has no statistics showing that the frequency of firearms discharge in the woods around Squamish is going up or down. But he did say officers are aware of the potential for mishaps in areas of frequent recreational use.
“I wouldn’t want to make a comment from a CO’s standpoint on that,” he said. “From a probability standpoint, when you have different user groups out there, there’s certainly going to be a higher probability of something happening.
“Squamish is the Outdoor Recreation Capital of Canada and we have a lot of user groups out there, and we definitely encounter firearms during our patrols. But there are a lot of legal and safe ways to enjoy firearms as recreation as well.”
Said Alder, “Our woods are packed with people more than your average town, so we need to get this solved before anything else like this happens.
“I’m a hunter myself and there’s only one kind of shot — that’s a responsible one where you’re absolutely sure what you’re aiming at.”