A South Okanagan hunting guide has been fined over $20,000 after pleading guilty to three Wildlife Act offences related to bear baiting
Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the BC Prosecution Service, said James Darin Wiens pled guilty to hunting with bait, providing an attractant to dangerous wildlife and hunting from a vehicle — all contrary to the various provisions or regulations of the Wildlife Act.
McLaughlin said Wiens was ordered to pay an $18,000 penalty to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, $500 in court fines (plus the victim surcharge), surrender the rifle used to slay the bear and pay back the $6,305 he collected from the undercover officers for the hunt.
Crown counsel had originally asked the judge to consider $25,000 to $35,000 in fines, as well as forfeiture of the rifle, ammo and a Polaris ATV. Defence lawyer Kevin Church had noted that it is not illegal to hunt black bears and they are not an endangered species. He was asking for a fine in the range of $10,000 and forfeiture of the rifle.
Undercover U.S. conservation officers investigated Wiens, operator of Vaseux Creek Outfitters, in 2016 posing as customers wanting to set up a black bear hunt. He told them he knew places that the bears come to like “clockwork” every day.
The hunting party set out on May 9, 2016 and the officers noted than an assistant to Wiens said he had laid out two bags of dog food. The officers then observed Wiens pouring a semi-thick brownish liquid out of a red gas can onto some logs.
Over the next hour, the officers were taken to two baiting sites, which they noted smelled like fried chicken, and they observed signs of grease saturation on logs. Photos of Wiens and his assistant baiting the sites were submitted as evidence.
Later that morning, Wiens asked one of the officers to pass him the .17 calibre rifle in the truck and he was observed shooting outside the driver’s side window. While the Crown argued that Weins’ target was a large animal, believed to be a horse.
On the second day of the hunt, the trio came across a black bear feeding at one of the baited sites. Wiens instructed the undercover officer to shoot the bear and it was killed at that site. In addition over the course of a few days, operators saw Wiens dumping out dog food, placing bait and pouring out fryer grease at several sites.
Defence lawyer Kevin Church had provided case law of fines as low as $230 and noted that it is not illegal to hunt black bears and they are not an endangered species. He was asking for a fine in the range of $10,000 and forfeiture of the rifle.
All other charges and the other information were stayed at the completion of sentencing.
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