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Wild Animal Law of Canada

-----------------------------------

Wildlife-Related Acts (NS)

(current to 15 October 2016)
Note Re Application of the:
  • Wildlife Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Angling Act
  • Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act
  • Wilderness Areas Protection Act
Nova Scotia's central wildlife-related statute is the Wildlife Act ('WA'). It applies to all wildlife in the province, which are defined as vertebrates that, in their natural habitat, are usually wild by nature and it includes domestic organisms that are physically similar to their wild counterparts, exotic wildlife, hybrid descendants of wildlife or of wildlife and a domestic organism [WA 3(ba)]. For these purposes, 'exotic wildlife' means "all birds, mammals and other vertebrates that are not indigenous to the Province and that in their natural habitat are usually wild by nature" [WA 3(q)].

These laws bears on the wildlife issues of:
  • PROTECTION
  • OWNERSHIP AND POSSESSION
  • SALE
  • FACILITIES
  • ADMINISTRATIVE
  • IMPORT/EXPORT
  • TRANSPORTATION
  • HABITAT
  • EXTERMINATION
  • HUNTING, TRAPPING AND FISHING
  • CIVIL LIABILITY
The full current text of these statutes and their Regulations may be viewed at the Nova Scotia statute website.

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Table of Contents
1. Overview
(a) General
(b) Key Terminology
2. Ownership and Possession
3. Hunting, Trapping and Fishing
(a) General
(b) General Prohibitions and Protections
(c) Special Designated Wildlife Areas
(d) Wilderness Areas
(e) Fishing
(f) Specific Rules for Particular Species and Classes of Species
4. Wildlife Facilities
(a) Overview
(b) Farming of Wildlife Species
(c) Shooting Preserves
5. 'Nuisance' Wildlife
6. Species at Risk
(a) Overview
(b) Categories of 'Species at Risk'
(c) Prohibitions and Protections
(d) Recovery Plans for Listed Endangered and Threatened Species
(e) Management Plans for Vulnerable Species
7. Sale
8. Export, Import and Relocation
9. Civil Liability
10. Enforcement
______________________________________


1. Overview

(a) General

Nova Scotia's Wildlife Act ('WA') is that province's version of the hunting, trapping and fishing regulation statutes that are found across Canada. The primary regulatory method used is that of licensing (or issuance of 'permits', 'certificates' or 'authorizations') [WA 23].

Formally, the objects and purpose of the WA are to [WA 2]:
  • "develop and implement policies and programs for wildlife designed to maintain diversity of species at levels of abundance to meet management objectives";

  • "integrate appropriate protective measures into policies for use on Crown lands and in guidelines for forest management and other programs on privately owned land to ensure adequate habitat for established populations of wildlife";

  • "recognize that angling, hunting and trapping are valued and safe parts of the heritage of the Province and that the continuing opportunity to participate in those activities will be maintained in accordance with this Act and the regulations";

  • "provide for the regulation of hunting and fishing and the possession and sale of wildlife"; and

  • "provide for the continuing renewal of the resource while managing for its optimum recreational and economic uses".
Details elaborating on the issues discussed below (eg. hunting licenses and fees, import/export permits, open and closed seasons, bag limits, etc) are set out in the General Wildlife Regulations. Note that other regulations addressing specific aspects of the WA regime are linked throughout this module where appropriate to the subject.

(b) Key Terminology

The following are key terms used in the Wildlife Act [WA 3]:
  • 'big game' means "bear, moose, deer and any wildlife which may be designated as big game by the Governor in Council,and includes any part of such wildlife";

  • 'deer family' means "moose, caribou and deer";

  • 'domestic organism' means "an organism that has been substantially altered from its wild progenitor through a long process of selective breeding";

  • 'exotic wildlife' means "all birds, mammals and other vertebrates that are not indigenous to the Province and that in their natural habitat are usually wild by nature, and includes any part of such birds, mammals or other vertebrates";

  • 'fur-bearing animal' means "beaver, muskrat, red squirel, mink, otter, skunk, weasel, fisher, marten, lynx, bobcat, cougar, fox, coyote, raccoon and any other non-domesticated animal which may be designated as a fur-bearing animal by the Governor in Counil, and includes any part of such animal, but does not include bear or snowshoe hare";

  • 'gallinaceous bird' includes "all species of grouse, partridge, pheasant, quail, ptarmigan and wild turkey and the eggs of all such species";

  • 'game' means all big game, small game and fur-bearing animals, and all species of animals and birds which are wild by nature and designated as game by the Governor in Council";

  • 'game bird' means a wild gallinaceous bird or a migratory game bird as defined in the Migratory Birds Convention Act (Canada) (see that federal module);

  • 'protected' "as applied to wildlife, means protected throughout the year or for any open or closed season, pursuant to this Act or the regulations";

  • 'shooting preserve' means "land on which wildlife has been released for the purpose of hunting whether that wildlife has been raised in captivity on that land or other lands";

  • 'small game' means "snowshoe hare and any gallinaceous bird or game bird as herein defined and any other animal or bird designated as small game by the Governor in Council";

  • 'take' "when used in relation to wildlife, includes the capturing or taking into possession of wildlife whether dead or alive".

2. Ownership and Possession

Ownership of wildlife in a state of nature witihin Nova Scotia lies with the province [WA 4(1)]. Property title may only be transferred in accordance with the WA, the primary method of which is when it is lawfully killed under license [WA 4(2)].

It is prohibited to possess an eagle, osprey, falcon, hawk, owl or any species of protected wildlife [WA 50(1)]. For these purposes, 'protected wildlife' means wildlife "protected throughout the year or for any open or closed season, pursuant to this Act or the regulations" [WA 3].

Other provisions relating to the possession of wildlife include:
  • generally, the keeping in captivity of either wildlife or exotic wildlife is prohibited except under permit or license granted under s.6 of the General Wildlife Regulation (linked in s.1 above) [WA 62(1)];

  • Ministerial permits may be issued authorizing the capture or obtaining and keeping in captivity of wildlife [WA 62(2)];

  • Ministerial permits may be issued authorizing the taking or killing of wildlife for preservation as specimens of natural history or for scientific purposes [WA 62(2)].
Regarding the possession of live fish, see s.3(e) ['Hunting, Trapping and Fishing', subsection 'Fishing'].


3. Hunting, Trapping and Fishing

(a) General

For WA purposes, 'hunting' means "chasing, driving, flushing, attracting, pursuing, worrying, following after or on the trail of, searching for, trapping, attempting to trap, snaring or attempting to snare, shooting at, stalking or lying in wait for any wildlife whether or not the wildlife is then or subsequently captured, killed, taken or wounded, but does not include stalking, attracting, searching for or lying in wait for any wildlife by an unarmed person solely for the purpose of watching or taking pictures of it" [WA 3(ad)].

To 'take' is a term separate from and not included within 'hunting'. It means "the capturing or taking into possession of wildlife whether dead or alive" [WA 3(as)].

'Trap' "means a snare, spring trap, deadfall, box trap, net or device used to capture wildlife", and 'trapping' has a corresponding meaning. Trapping is regulated in detail under the Fur Harvesting Regulations.

Angling or fishing may only be done under appropriate license [WA 53(3)]. Fishing is regulated in detail under the Fishing Regulations.

(b) General Prohibitions and Protections

Provisions applicable to hunting, trapping and fishing under the WA include the following:
  • generally, hunting or fishing in Nova Scotia may only be done under appropriate license or permit [WA 26];

  • interfering with others who are lawfully hunting or fishing (including disturbing wildlife), "with the intention of preventing or impeding hunting or fishing" is prohibited [WA 38];

  • knowingly touching or interfering with traps legally set is prohibited [WA 48(4)];

  • use of traps or snares, to hunt moose or deer is prohibited [WA 40(1)];

  • killing deer, moose or bear while it is swimming is prohibited [WA 40(2)];

  • it is prohibited to allow dogs to be at large in wildlife habitat [WA 41(5) and where a dog is so found a CA may order the owner to confine or destroy it [WA 41(2)]], or where the dog is harassing wildlife the CA may destroy it [WA 41(4)];

  • anyone may lawfully kill a dog that is attacking moose, bear or deer [WA 41(3)];

  • hunting wildlife with dogs is only allowed as per the Dog Hunting and Training Regulations [WA 42];

  • damaging, disturbing or destroying "the den or usual place of habitation of a fur-bearer or to a beaver dam" is prohibited [WA 48(3)];

  • it is prohibited to hunt or kill an eagle, osprey, falcon, hawk, owl or any species of protected wildlife [WA 50(1)];

    For these purposes, 'protected wildlife' means wildlife "protected throughout the year or for any open or closed season, pursuant to this Act or the regulations" [WA 3].

  • it is prohibited to "destroy, take, possess, buy or sell any egg of a bird or turtle or disturb the nest of a bird or turtle" without a Ministerial permit [WA 51(a)];

  • it is prohibited to "use a snare, net or trap to take any bird" without a Ministerial permit [WA 51(b)];

  • it is prohibited to "take, hunt or kill any wildlife by means of a poison, drug, explosive, deleterious substance or
    electrical charge in any place where wildlife is or may be found", except with Ministerial permission and except that mice and rats may be poisoned to protect property [WA 67];

  • hunting or killing with lights (jacklighting) is prohibited [WA 68-69];

  • the use of air, land or water vehicles ("any vehicle propelled or driven otherwise than by muscular power, whether or not the vehicle is registered pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Act, and includes an airplane" [WA 3(ax)]) or vessels to "to chase, pursue, worry, molest, take, hunt or kill any wildlife or wilfully destroy wildlife habitat" is prohibited. There is an exception to this prohibition for nuisance wildlife when Ministerial consent is obtained [WA 70];

  • taking, hunting and killing wildlife on Sundays is prohibited, though trapping is allowed [WA 71];

  • taking, hunting or killing wildlife that is in or within 100 feet of a public highway is prohibited [WA 72].
(c) Special Designated Wildlife Areas

The WA establishes several categories under which lands may receive special designation as to how wildlife are treated therein. Specific regulations applicable to each such area may be viewed through this link: WA Regulations):
  • Wildlife and Game Sanctuaries

    The purposes of wildlife and game sanctuaries are not defined in the WA [WA 14], so readers must have reference to each individual regulation designating the sanctuary to see what protections it affords.

  • Wildlife Parks

    'Wildlife parks' are areas designated "for the primary purpose of nature education" where [WA 16(1,2)]:

    • wildlife may be exhibited;
    • research may be performed;
    • breeding programs of certain wildlife species may be established;
    • nature reserves may be established;
    • camping or travelling may be prohibited or may bepermitted subject to restrictions.

    Operation of private wildlife parks requires Ministerial license or permit [WA 16(3)].

  • Wildlife Management Areas

    Wildlife management areas are established "for the control ... and the management of wildlife and associated habitats" [WA 15]. At the date of writing there are 15 such areas (see the Regulations applicable to each by the above link).

  • Hunting and Trapping Prohibition Areas

    Cabinet orders establishing several hunting and trapping prohibition areas are listed in the Regulation link [WA 21].
(d) Wilderness Areas

The province has also established several Wilderness Areas under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act ('WAPA'). They differ from parks in that their primary purposes are not recreational (see the Provincial Parks Act module).

The wildlife-relevant purposes of wilderness areas are "the establishment, management, protection and use of wilderness areas, in perpetuity, for present and future generations", in order to achieve the following objectives, while at the same time "providing opportunities for public access for sport fishing and traditional patterns of hunting and trapping"[WAPA 2,24]:
  • to maintain and restore the integrity of natural processes and biodiversity;

  • to protect representative examples of natural landscapes and ecosystems;

  • to provide reference points for determining the effects of human activity on the natural environment;

  • to protect and provide opportunities for scientific research, environmental education and wilderness recreation.
The following activities are prohibited within a wilderness area without Ministerial authorization, with exceptions for certain permitted recreational activities (see s.23) [WAPA 17,19,23]:
  • energy-resource construction or development, including a hydro-electric or water-resource development;

  • construction or development of a transmission or distribution line, pipeline or tunnel;

  • forestry or acquaculture;

  • mineral or petroleum development, quarrying or mining;

  • construction, maintainance or operation of a structure or facility, utility line or bridge;

  • agricultural activities;

  • creation, construction, maintainance or operation of a trail, road, railway, aircraft landing strip or helicopter pad;

  • use or operate a vehicle or bicycle;

  • camping, tenting and other occupation of the land;

  • alteration of the surface of the land;

  • to remove, destroy, or damage any natural object, flora or fauna, whether living or dead;

  • to introduce a substance or thing that may destroy or damage existing flora, fauna or ecosystems;

  • (k) dump or deposit any litter, garbage or refuse other than in containers provided or designated by the Minister for that purpose.
(e) Fishing

While the Wildlife Act has some relevance to fishing as noted above in this section (especially licensing of angling: WA 26), primary Canadian legislative jurisdiction over coastal and inland 'fisheries' (roughly: any waters, fresh or salt, where people try to catch fish) lies with the federal government and is implemented in the federal Fisheries Act (see that module). However there are two other provincial statutes that bears on fishing, and they are considered below.

The first of these is the Angling Act ('AA'), which establishes the right of provincial residents to 'lawfully fish', which means "fishing in accordance with the game laws of the Province and the laws of the Dominion of Canada and any regulations made thereunder for the purpose of sport, and includes the taking and carrying away of any fish lawfully caught" [AA 2]. The AA provides that anglers may "go on foot along the banks of any river, stream or lake, upon and across any uncultivated lands and Crown lands for the purpose of lawfully fishing with rod and line in such rivers, streams or lakes" [AA 3(1)], and to "go on, upon or across any river, stream or lake in boat or canoe or otherwise, for the purpose of lawfully fishing with rod and line in such rivers, streams or lakes" [AA 3(2)]. Such rights override private property trespass laws, though property owners may still seek damage compensation where appropriate against such activities [AA 3(3)].

The second relevant statute is the Fisheries and Coastal Resources Act ('FCRA') [and it's Live Fish Possession Regulation ('LFP Regs')]. The FCRA regime is mostly concerned with regulating commercial Nova Scotia commercial fisheries (including processing) and aquaculture (once again, primarily by licensing), and to those ends contains the following provisions relevant to the interests of live wild fish:
  • when fish are seized by an FCRA inspector who believes them to be alive, the inspector may return them to the water [FCRA 95];

  • live fish may only be possessed in the following circumstances [LFP Regs 3-4]:

    • with the written permission of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans "for purposes of stocking or artificial breeding or for scientific purposes";
    • use of live fish as bait in sport fishing, in accordance with the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations made under the Fisheries Act (Canada) [see that federal module];
    • with appropriate license issued under the federal Fisheries Act;
    • "the fish are intended to be kept in a private aquarium and the person can provide proof of purchase of the fish";
    • the fish are speckled trout or rainbow trout purchased from a licensed Nova Scotia fish hatchery for transportation to a private facility;
    • the fish are being transported to a natural location as part of a government stocking or education program;
    • "the fish are being used in a fishing event for which the Minister has issued a permit";
    • "the fish are shellfish that are being relocated under a shellfish replanting licence issued pursuant to the Maritime Provinces Fishery Regulations made under the Fisheries Act (Canada)";
    • "the fish are shellfish that are intended for human consumption";
    • "the fish are marine worms or American eels";
    • "the fish are intended for food, social or ceremonial purposes and are harvested in accordance with any asserted Mi’kmaq rights under the direction of a First Nations band".
(f) Specific Rules for Particular Species and Classes of Species

In addition to the Act and the General Wildlife Regulation, the following regulations have been passed under the WA to set out rules regarding the hunting and taking of particular species and classes of species:.
4. Wildlife Facilities

(a) Overview

The WA anticipates several types of facilities in which wildlife may be kept. These are considered in turn below, though readers should review the provisions on 'Ownership and Possession' (above) as they set out the underlying law respecting possession of wildlife, which is what the taking and keeping them in captivity amounts to.

(b) Farming of Wildlife Species

'Game farms' are premises where wildlife are keep in captivity for purposes of sale, barter, exchange, preservation, consumption and propagation. The Minister may issue game farm licenses [WA 49]. For the most part these animals will be considered domestic once they are used for these purposes and so are not relevant to this wild animal legal guide. However the provisions have relevance insofar as wild animals in a state of nature are taken for game farming.

The farming of wildlife species is allowed under the following regulations:(c) Shooting Preserves

A 'shooting preserve' is "land on which wildlife has been released for the purpose of hunting whether that wildlife has been raised in captivity on that land or other lands" [WA 3(an)]. Owning or operating shooting preserves for gallinaceous birds and other wildlife are only allowed under appropriate license or permit [WA 52].

Hunting pheasants in shooting preserves is regulated under the Pheasant Shooting Preserve Regulations.


5. 'Nuisance' Wildlife

Owners and occupiers of private property may, where "wildlife is found doing or is in a position where it may cause actual damage to a growing cultivated crop, an orchard, livestock or private property", "use all reasonable methods to scare away the offending wildlife" [WA 28(1)]. Where this fails a permit may be issued by a conservation officer allowing extermination [WA 28(2)].


6. Species at Risk

(a) Overview

Like most provinces, Nova Scotia has an Endangered Species Act ('ESA') to address wild species at risk. Formally, it's purposes are "to provide for the protection, designation, recovery and other relevant aspects of conservation of species at risk in the Province, including habitat protection, while recognizing the following" principles [ESA 2,3(p)]:
  • "the goal of preventing any species in the Province from becoming extirpated or extinct as a consequence of human activities";

  • "the conservation of species at risk is a key component of a broader strategy to maintain biodiversity and to use biological resources in a sustainable manner";

  • "the importance of promoting the purposes of this Act primarily through non-regulatory means such as co-operation, stewardship, education and partnerships instead of punitive measures, including such preventative actions as education, incentives, sustainable management practices and integrated resource management"; and

  • "the precautionary principle that a lack of full scientific certainty must not be used as a reason for postponing measures to avoid or minimize the threat of a species at risk in the Province".
(b) Categories of 'Species at Risk'

The ESA categorizes species at risk into the following types, as listed in the Categorized List of Species at Risk made under Section 12 of the Endangered Species Act [ESA 3,12]:
  • Extinct

    A species that no longer exists anywhere in the world.

  • Extirpated

    A "species that no longer exists in the wild in the Province but exists in the wild outside the Province".

  • Endangered

    A "species that faces imminent extinction or extirpation".

  • Threatened

    A "species that is likely to become endangered if the factors affecting its vulnerability are not reversed".

  • Vulnerable

    A "species of special concern due to characteristics that make it particularly sensitive to human activities or natural events".
(c) Prohibitions and Protections

It is prohibited without Ministerial permit, which may be issued for scientific conservation-related purposes or for "protection of human health or safety", to [ESA 13,14]:
  • "kill, injure, possess, disturb, take or interfere with or attempt to kill, injure, possess, disturb, take or interfere with an endangered or threatened species";

  • "possess for sale, offer for sale, sell, buy, trade or barter an endangered or threatened species";

  • "destroy, disturb or interfere with or attempt to destroy, disturb or interfere with the specific dwelling place or area occupied or habitually occupied by one or more individuals or populations of an endangered or threatened species, including the nest, nest shelter, hibernaculum or den of an endangered or threatened species".
(d) Recovery Plans for Listed Endangered and Threatened Species

'Recovery plans' must be prepared by appointed 'recovery teams' for each listed endangered or threatened species [ESA 15(1)]. For these purposes, a 'recovery plan' is "a statement of needs and actions to be undertaken for the recovery of an endangered or threatened species" [ESA 3(n)], and it shall [ESA 15(4)]:
  • identify the needs of and threats to an endangered or threatened species;

  • identify the viable status needed for recovery;

  • identify options for the recovery of the endangered or threatened species, with their associated costs and benefits;

  • recommend a course of action or a combination of actions for the recovery of an endangered or threatened species;

  • recommend a schedule for implementation of the recovery plan including a prioritized listing of recommended actions;

  • identify habitat of the endangered or threatened species; and

  • identify areas to be considered for designation as core habitat.

    For these purposes, 'habitat' means "land, water or air where a plant, animal or other organism lives", and 'core habitat' means listed or designated "specific areas of habitat essential for the long-term survival and recovery of endangered or threatened species" [ESA 3(b,i),17].
Portions of the recovery plan that the Minister views as being feasible shall be implemented [ESA 15(12)].

(e) Management Plans for Vulnerable Species

'Management plans' must be prepared by the Minister for each listed vulnerable species [ESA 15(10)]. For these purposes, a 'management plan' is "a statement of needs and actions to be undertaken to keep a vulnerable species from becoming at increased risk" [ESA 3(j)].

Portions of the management plan that the Minister views as being feasible shall be implemented [ESA 15(12)].


7. Sale

It is prohibited to buy or sell protected wildlife [WA 50(2)] without an appropriate permit. For these purposes, 'protected wildlife' means wildlife "protected throughout the year or for any open or closed season, pursuant to this Act or the regulations" [WA 3].


8. Export, Import and Relocation

Export of wildlife for "scientific, educational or other purpose(s) that the Minister deems to be in the public interest" is allowed under Ministerial permit [WA 20].

Other provisions relating to the export, import or relocation of wildlife include:
  • Ministerial permits may be issued authorizing "a person to export out of the Province any wildlife held in captivity" [WA 62(2)];

  • Ministerial permits may be issued authorizing the release of wildlife held in captivity [WA 62(2)].
Both the importing and exporting of live wildlife and exotic wildlife require appropriate permits, and common carriers are prohibited from exporting such animals unless they are under such permit [WA 63-64].


9. Civil Liability

The province is immune from civil liability "for death, personal injury or property damage caused by wildlife, or any wildlife that escapes or is released from captivity or is abandoned within the Province" [WA 4(3)].


10. Enforcement

Conservation officers ('CAs') may be appointed for purpose of enforcment of the WA [WA 8], and they have typical regulatory enforcement authorities to arrest [WA 93], search with and without warrant [WA 94-95] and to enter land [WA 96].
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