Use of Firearms during Field Research at the University of Alberta

There may be situations while doing field research in the Department of Biological Sciences where it might be warranted to carry a firearm for personal protection against animals. Some activities such as capturing and collaring bears or cougars or working near killed animals are considered high risk and where it is advisable to have a firearm. However, there are other ways of deterring animals than with the use of a gun and these should be considered before deciding that a firearm is necessary. You should also consider how effective you might be in using a firearm for protection. Analysis of 40 bear attacks in Wyoming in the 1990s showed that for people who fired a gun, 58% suffered injury from the bear. For those who used pepper spray as a deterrent, only 8% were injured in the attack. Herrero and Higgins have published a paper on the Field use of Capsicum spray as a bear deterrent.(PDF, 435kb)

Persons wishing to carry a rifle or shotgun while in the field must comply with the federal regulations as well as the University of Alberta Firearm policy and procedures. They should be knowledgeable and competent in the use of the firearm.

Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL):
Obtaining a PAL requires taking a course provided by a certified instructor, passing a written exam and having a background and security check done on the applicant by the police. The security check can take several months so start early. Users should also get some practice using the firearm as well and this might be arranged through a gun club that has a firing range.

University of Alberta Firearms Policy and Procedures:
These procedures describe the processes for purchasing firearms and ammunition, incident reporting after discharge, theft or loss of a firearm, the use of forms for issuance of a university-owned firearm or approval to use a personally-owned unit and periodic maintenance and inspection. They apply to all firearms used by University of Alberta employees while engaged in research or work on behalf of the University of Alberta.

University owned firearms:
Unrestricted weapons such as rifles and shotguns are the most likely kind of firearm that might be used in the field. If purchased on a grant, they are referred to as belonging to the University of Alberta. Such items are stored at the University of Alberta by U of A Protective Services Services (UAPS) and the grant holder requests release of the firearm to take into the field by delivering an Issuance Form to Campus Security Offices. The usage must be approved and the form signed by the Dean (or Director of the unit) and also by a senior representative from UAPS. UAPS will have the firearm cleaned and inspected by a gunsmith at least every 2 years and the cost will be charged to the grant holder.

Privately owned firearms:
Privately owned firearms may also be used in the field if the user completes and submits an Approval Form to UAPS. This must also be approved and signed by the Dean and a Senior representative fromUAPS. Privately owned firearms are not stored by UAPS and should not be stored anywhere on University of Alberta property. In addition, the owner is responsible for providing a written declaration from a gunsmith that the unit is clean and in good working order.

For further information on the use of firearms in field, please contact U of A Protective Services at 780-492-5050