September 21, 2007 / 3:16 AM / 12 years ago

Government wants kids to get hunting

CALGARY, Alberta (Reuters) - The citizens of Alberta just aren’t going after big game at the pace they once did, according to the government of the western Canadian province, but a remedy is in the works.

Mule deer take advantage of a break in traffic as they cross a highway Balzac, northwest of Calgary, Alberta in an undated file photo. Alberta has designated September 22 as its first "Hunting Day," an attempt to lure the video-game generation off the couch and into the great outdoors. REUTERS/Patrick Price

The province has designated September 22 as its first “Hunting Day,” an attempt to lure the video-game generation off the couch and into the great outdoors.

Ted Morton, the province’s Minister of Sustainable Resource Development — and an avid hunter — said a generation is being lost to television, computers and shopping malls.

“Hunting is more fun (than video games) and a lot healthier,” he said.

Over the past 25 years, Morton said, the number of hunters tramping the province’s wilds has dropped by half to around 100,000. And while hunters are a small fraction of Alberta’s 3.3 million citizens, Morton said they are part of a tradition that should carry some weight.

“Hunting is obviously part of Alberta’s western heritage and we think it is worth celebrating,” the minister told Reuters.

Morton’s department said the benefits of hunting include cutting the number of vehicles damaged in collisions with deer and other game, reducing crop damage from grazing deer and elk and slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease in deer.

As well, hunters are often leaders in preserving wildlife habit and natural areas, he said.

Despite that, at least one animal-rights group doubts Alberta’s efforts will turn kids into hunters or reverse the long-term decline of the sport in the province.

Hunting Day “is not going to change people’s minds about why they have stopped hunting,” said Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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