A provincial court judge is weighing several factors in her decision on punishment for an Oliver guide-outfitter who contravened the Wildlife Act in 2016.
This week James Darin Wiens pleaded guilty to shooting from a vehicle, hunting bears with bait and feeding dangerous wildlife. The plea resulted in other Wildlife Act charges not being pursued by the Crown.
The 51-year-old outdoorsman is the owner/operator of Vaseux Creek Outfitters, a company that provides hunting excursions for deer, black bear, cougars, elk, wolves and moose.
The charges were laid following a lengthy and elaborate undercover operation in which two conservation officers posed as hunters. The officers witnessed Wiens preparing for a black bear hunt by setting out dog food and cooking grease. A bruin was subsequently attracted to the site and shot (and killed) by one of the officers.
The judge has set aside sentencing for a later date.
Wiens is facing a potential fine and could lose some hunting equipment related to the Wildlife Act contravention. It is not clear if his guide-outfitter licence is also in jeopardy.
Tobe Sprado, an inspector with the Conservation Officer Service (Okanagan region) confirmed the above details with the Oliver Chronicle.
He said undercover operations occur regularly but are only carried out in the more serious offences committed by commercial operations. He noted there is always an element of risk to the officers involved, but no different than the risk associated with an RCMP traffic stop.
“We’re not going to put anyone’s life at risk.”
The Chronicle questioned Sprado on the protocol during these special investigations into Wildlife Act contraventions. He was asked about the officer who shot the bear and whether this act could also be considered a contravention of the law. He noted that conservation officers have special authority under the Act and are exempt from these contraventions.
Sprado also noted that black bears are not a species at risk, not like caribou. And the fact is conservation deals with a lot of conflicts with bears, he pointed out.
Sprado commented on the Wiens investigation and the necessity to carry out the shooting of the bruin.
“If the officer had missed, it would have placed the investigation at risk,” he said, adding there is also a risk to the safety of the officers.
As for Wiens losing his licence, Sprado said that is up to the director of wildlife to decide. He noted the director has the ability to administer additional sanctions or a suspension of permit.