An Oliver hunting guide will be out of pocket $24,800 for violating Mother Nature and the BC Wildlife Act.
James Darin Wiens, 51, was sentenced today in Penticton court by judge Michelle Daneliuk, who said his behaviour in May of 2016 was “dishonourable” and an abuse of trust.
However, the judge said a mitigating factor was Wiens’ guilty plea to three charges under the Act, including baiting a black bear that was subsequently shot and killed.
The court heard that Wiens, operator of Vaseux Creek Outfitters, was the subject of an elaborate undercover sting operation that involved two conservation officers, one posing as a hunter, the other as a photographer. (The investigation stemmed from a tip from a confidential source.)
The officers hired Wiens to guide them on a black bear hunt over a period of four days. According to Daneliuk, he told the officers that he had a 100 per cent success rate.
A report from the Crown states that Wiens placed dog food and cooking grease at locations to attract a bear for the purpose of harvesting it.
The judge noted that one of the charges Wiens pleaded guilty to was discharging a firearm from a vehicle, which is illegal. The day after that offence, a black bear was observed at a baited site, and Wiens told the officer to shoot it, which the man did.
Daneliuk said the Crown was seeking a fine between $25,000 and $30,000, plus forfeiture of a rifle and an ATV that Wiens used to retrieve the bear.
But defence lawyer Kevin Church said the fines were extremely excessive, saying that his client also strenuously opposed to losing his ATV, which was only used to move the carcass; it was not used during the hunt.
Church recommended a total penalty of $7,500.
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Daneliuk said the maximum penalty for one of the offences was $50,000, or a jail term of six months.
The judge agreed that the fine should represent a deterrence, not akin to a licence fee or the cost of doing business.
She noted that people who profit from the outfitting business must serve as stewards of the environment. But this was not the case here.
Daneliuk pointed out some aggravating factors, such as Vaseux Creek Outfitters’ rules that all hunts are conducted according to the BC Wildlife Act, and any hunter not following the regulations will have his hunt terminated without a refund.
The judge said baiting and luring the bear was deliberately planned, not spontaneous.
“If anyone in the community knows the rules, it should be Wiens,” Daneliuk said, noting the outfitter basically “transformed the bear to a sitting duck … this was not a hunt but a shooting gallery.”
However, the judge reitered the mitigating factor was that Wiens pleaded guilty and saved court time and resources in a two-week trial. She also noted Wiens’ remorse in his statement to the court, wanting to uphold the legacy of his father who passed the outfitting business on to him.
Daneliuk noted there were several letters of support for Wiens who was described as an honest person with integrity.
The court heard that Wiens was the youngest guide outfitter in the province when he took over the business.
The judge said Wiens has no prior convictions or Wildlife Act charges, but noted if there is any repeat of these offences, the consequences will be significant.
She fined Wiens $500 for the three Wildlife Act violations, plus $18,000 which must be paid to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund. Wiens must also pay $6,305 in additional fines representing the monetary benefits he received from the hunt in question.
Daneliuk ordered that Wiens’ hunting rifle be seized, but not his all-terrain vehicle.
Several other charges were stayed by the Crown, including killing or injuring cattle, failing to accompany a person being guided, guiding without a park or resource use permit, and hunting or trapping ill wildlife with poison.
Daneliuk said she has no way of knowing whether Wiens’ licence to guide will be lost or temporarily suspended. That will be left up to the province to decide.