The 69-year-old woman has no fences and her no trespassing signs have been taken down she said. Also, her fields are organic and she worries about what the tracks of the snowmobiles might be leaving to grow or affect her fields come Spring.
“With the skidoos being the weight they are when they run across those fields and they leave a track that is this wide,” Strong said gesturing the width of a snowmobile track. “It packs down the snow on the alfalfa and all the other hay that's trying to come up in the spring. That does not melt as fast as the rest of the field with ordinary snow.”
She fears the impact on the crops under the snow as they couldn’t be taken off the field due to the bad weather in the fall.
“It's been raked and everything and it's in a pile and if they go over it, they make it even worse and you can't get it off,” Strong said. “I'm gonna lose that field, I swear to God, I'm gonna lose that field next spring because you can't get it off. It's not like canola that they can go in and take it off so it'll probably wind up in the bush for the critters.”
Strong has lived peacefully on her property since 2017 and until February had no issues with snowmobilers.
“When you come on my private property and you do this crazy chicken like they've done here and they're chasing the wildlife,” she said. “That's when I'm losing it.”
She can see the tracks of the wildlife passing near her home and has noticed since the trespassing started the line of tracks has started to alter.
“I could see changes in their patterns. I could see changes in the way they go and their trails and they were being chased,” Strong stated. “When they were being chased, they were coming closer to the house.”
Being so close to spring Strong worries about the wildlife impacted by the snowmobilers.
“The cow moose she's gonna have her baby in another month or so; the elk, if they haven't had them already, they are going to be calving and they're chasing these animals through two feet, if not more, of snow,” she said. “That's not acceptable.”
Strong has also noticed the snowmobilers are traveling over her land at night.
“They're usually about after midnight, 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning until about 4 a.m. because that doggie wakes me up and I couldn't figure out why she was barking at night,” Strong said, referring to her Australian shepherd. “And then I got out and started looking.”
She started calling everyone she could think of to help her, from County Coun. Dwayne Rawson, Weslock Peace Officer Darcy DeVos, Fish and Wildlife and Athabasca RCMP Corp. Dan Fenton.
Rawson said there is nothing the County can currently do and added, “If you are out riding Skidoos, be respectful and ask permission.”
Strong realizes resources are thin but isn’t giving up on stopping the trespassers.
“I realized (law enforcement) cannot be everywhere at once but some of this stuff is out of hand,” she said. “The theft and everything that's going on and if (thieves) think they're going to pick on seniors, well, that's not acceptable either.”
DeVos was unable to help as Strong’s farm is on the Athabasca side of the county border.
"I could only give her advice and who to contact but it sounded like she already did pretty much follow that route,” DeVos explained. “We wouldn't even look at it because it's another county. It's out of my jurisdiction.”
Fenton also sympathizes with Strong, but is unable to do more.
“We’ve been out there a few times and looked around,” he said. “We don’t have sleds but the law doesn’t allow us to pursue them anyway. I feel for Pat, I really do.”
Fenton added he suggested Strong set up game cameras, although he doubts it will do any good as snowmobilers wear helmets but he also said trespassing is a sign of the times.
“It’s a respect thing,” he stated. “The generation now doesn’t have the respect they used to.”
Lynn Olson, the president of the Athabasca River Runners issued a statement regarding the trespassing:
The Athabasca River Runners Snowmobile Club is disappointed to hear that snowmobilers are trespassing on private property.
Our club takes a lot of pride in building and maintaining approved trails to provide snowmobilers with areas to ride. Our trails provide riding access to crown land for open riding where you do not need to trespass to have fun.
Snowmobiles can cause damage to crops and be detrimental to a farmer’s livelihood. Along with the Alberta Snowmobile Association, our club has marked some unharvested fields with signage to try to prevent snowmobilers from riding on them.
Trespassing on private property only gives us a bad reputation and encourages those people that are against the sport to try to get our trails and riding areas taken away.
If you snowmobile, please support our club and our efforts to keep our trails open by not trespassing and becoming a member. More club information can be found at www.athabascariverrunners.com.
Snowmobiles must be registered and insured if they are taken off the owners' property.
Trespassing fines are $10,000 or six months in jail for a first offence and $25,000 or six months in jail for the second offence.