For the past seven months, the Ministry of Natural Resources has been tracking the camps of illegal squatters who have come to the Abitibi-Témiscamingue region to hunt and stay on the land without permits.

This month, however, dozens of hunting shacks and other structures built by the squatters will either be dismantled or burned to the ground by the ministry with the help of a helicopter service.

Lise Guerin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Natural Resources, said the ministry has identified 38 structures to be dismantled. “But it is impossible to know exactly how many illegal shacks are around,” Guerin admitted.

It’s illegal to build hunting shacks without a permit, which cost $80 for one year.

“People pay to get permits for chalets or improvised structures; those are two different types of permits,” Guerin explained. “It’s not fair to those who do pay for their permits to build.”

For the most part, these hunters are heading to the area to hunt moose.

The squatters have had ample notice to remove their structures and belongings. Once the ministry discovers an area that is being squatted they post a notice saying that whoever built the structure must report to the ministry and dismantle what they have built. Some of these notices have already been up for seven months.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to track down whoever built the structures. Says Guerin: “If people do not report back to the ministry, we have no way of knowing who they are and no way to prosecute them. When people do report to the ministry, what we do is try to find them accommodations.”

For those who wish to hunt on public property or participate in other outdoor activities in the area, the Ministry will happily provide them with a spot to set up camp provided they pay the permit. What they do not guarantee, however, is that visitors will actually get the area originally selected.

The Ministry of Natural Resources will burn down camps in cases where they can not be dismantled.

“We are doing this out of a question of integrity, to preserve the integrity of public land of the property,” said Guerin.

Anyone who sees or is aware of illegal squatters on the land is invited to report it to either the SQ or to contact the Ministry of Natural Resources.