A provincial court judge has rejected a man’s self defence claim in the shooting of two bears in Tofino.
Ryan Owen Millar was convicted of the unlawful killing of a mother bear and young cub on Oct. 14, 2021.
“It was not a fair hunt. It was not an ethical hunt. For our purposes in this trial, I conclude and find as a matter of fact, it was not a legal hunt,” Honourable Judge Alexander Wolf wrote in his reasons for judgment published on June 6. “It appears to me that Mr. Millar’s only regret is that he was caught on film and seen by two witnesses.”
During the three-day trial, a witness testified he was visiting Tofino from Vancouver with his spouse and “enjoying watching the bears” from his Airbnb when he saw Millar shoot the bears with a longbow and a crossbow.
“The witness said he has “been around hunting most of his life, studied Medieval Studies, and could tell one of the bows was a “long bow,’” Wolf wrote. “He then told the court that the accused put an arrow in it and aimed at the bears. He testified that both bears were in a tree. He took a shot and hit one bear, and that bear fell out of a tree.”
The witness said he was about to yell at Millar, but before he could Millar had taken out a cross bow “to finish off the bear.”
“He told the court the second bear was still in the tree and “just looked on”. That is when the accused “loaded the long bow again, and took another shot, and the second bear fell out of the tree,” Wolf wrote.
The witness said the bear tried to run away but the accused ran after it and took another shot.”
“This is not a case where the two bears were killed accidentally,” Wolf wrote. “For example, they were not hit by a car, without any intent to harm or hurt the bear. There is clear evidence that supports an intentional application of force. There is evidence that clearly supports that there was an intention to maim, wound or kill the bears.”
He added that the witness testified that Millar had made no efforts to scare the bears away before shooting them. The witness also recorded video evidence before calling the RCMP.
An RCMP officer who was the first on scene testified that Millar initially said he “didn’t know anything about” any bears being shot, adding later that he had seen a bear and had scared it away.
Further questioning led to the accused telling the officer that he “had a haunch of meat on his property and he was worried about his dogs getting hurt.”
Millar further clarified that he had tried to scare the bear off but that it did not react, so he shot it with his bow.
A Conservation Officer also responded to the scene and testified at trial that Millar’s recounting of the events contained inconsistencies.
“He seemed to intentionally create the impression that the bear was a ‘problem’ bear. He used the word a couple of times and eventually said it was ‘not a good bear, just seeing it come at me like that,’” said the CO. “With respect to the incident on October 14, 2021, the accused described the experience and used very specific words. “Near death experience” was one phrase he used.”
A wildlife veterinarian also testified at trial and confirmed that the mother bear was lactating and had been shot with four arrows.
“Dr. Thacker described in detail the angles that the arrows entered the bear. At least one of the entry wounds was consistent with being shot while the bear was elevated, such as in a tree,” Wolf wrote.
“Based on her expertise she said there was likely a much smaller bear cub, weighing no more than 50 pounds, under the age of 12 months with the sow.”
Wolf added there was no evidence to suggest either bear was “in any way acting aggressively or threatening harm to person, place or thing” and that he did not believe Millar’s recollection of events.
“To be clear, without any hesitation, and to be as polite as possible, I conclude that his version of events is fabricated,” Wolf wrote.
Wolf found Millar guilty of illegally killing the two bears and sentencing will take place in September.