The B.C. Conservation Officer Service is defending its decision to shoot and kill a black bear during an undercover sting to catch an Oliver, B.C., guide outfitter in the act of baiting bears.
On Monday, 51-year-old James Wiens received an $18,500 fine and was forced to forfeit the $6,300 earned while taking people whom he thought were American tourists on a hunting trip.
Wiens, who owns Vaseux Creek Outfitters, pleaded guilty to three offences under the B.C. Wildlife Act last November.
Court heard Wiens was the subject of a joint Canadian-U.S. undercover operation involving wildlife officials on both sides of the border.
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Two U.S. conservation officers posed as bear hunters on a hunt guided by Wiens in May 2016.
The undercover officials observed Wiens placing pet food and cooking grease in various locations to bait the animals.
A bear was shot and killed by one of the officers at a baited spot. Wiens used his ATV to retrieve the carcass.
Det. Sgt. Steve Jacobi with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service defended the joint decision to shoot the bear during the undercover operation.
“We did debate this beforehand, and because there is no conservation concern for black bears, and likely if we had not shot that bear, the trip would have been sold again because he is on a quota system,” Jacobi said.
He also said the undercover officers’ covers could have been blown if they didn’t take the shot.
“Not shooting the bear at the time because the bear was baited in and in very close proximity would have put our undercover officers’ story as experienced hunters in jeopardy, and we might not have been able to bring the evidence forward as we did in the court,” he said.
Jacobi said bear baiting is illegal under the B.C. Wildlife Act.
“It’s not a lawful practice in British Columbia, it’s not the proper way to hunt black bears in British Columbia, and so we do want to stop that practice,” he said.
Jacobi commended the Penticton provincial court judge for imposing a stiff financial penalty against Wiens.
“There’s not a lot of precedent for this type of a case so to have a significant fine like this is a deterrent to other people and professionals, jobs like a guide outfitter,” he said.
“We hope that the guide outfitter’s association takes this back to its members and reinforces to them how serious they have to take the laws.”
“We hope that they take it seriously, their responsibility as guides with their increased knowledge and awareness of the Wildlife Act and regulations,” Jacobi added.
“We hope that this shows as a general deterrent for people that were thinking about baiting bears or were baiting bears that even the people that they think they’re talking to that are their friends might be undercover officers.”
Jacobi said the service will request that the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations hold an administrative hearing to determine if Wiens should get to keep his licence.
Meanwhile, Scott Ellis, executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., said he applauds the sentence handed down by Judge Michelle Daneliuk.
“James admitted that he did those things, and he was levied a hefty fine in that matter and he’s going to pay for those so, in my opinion, justice was served,” he said.
Ellis said he discourages his members from baiting bears and encourages them to follow hunting regulations.
“We have plenty of black bears in this province and we have the ability to spot and stalk black bears,” he said.
“There should be a value placed on wildlife, and hunters and outfitters should take all means to be compliant with the law, and if they’re going to harvest an animal, do it ethically and humanely.”