Conservation officer frustrated by number of people ignoring rules in North Okanagan | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Conservation officer frustrated by number of people ignoring rules in North Okanagan

Image Credit: FILE PHOTO

VERNON - The lack of compliance with hunting, fishing and other wildlife-related rules in the North Okanagan is “disturbing,” according to one conservation officer.

“It’s not getting better and it seems to be getting worse,” Terry Myroniuk says.

The number of tickets and court convictions for environmental offences between January to March of 2016 in B.C. — the most recent months that are available — show many people chose not to comply with the law.

In that period, there were 279 tickets handed out, 25 court convictions, 44 administrative sanctions and four orders, including 19 penalties for 17 people in the North Okanagan specifically. In all, non-compliance during those three months amounted to more than $3,500,000 in penalties across B.C.

“When we do our patrols, it’s really disturbing how low the compliance is,” Myroniuk says. “I think maybe some people think the chance of getting caught is so low they’re willing to risk it. What they should know is you might get away with it once in a while, but eventually you will get caught.”

In the first three months of 2016, conservation officers fined several people for angling with more than one fishing line ($150), catching more than the allowable quota ($250), and fishing with prohibited gear or bait ($150). Less common were penalties such as allowing dogs to chase wildlife, which carries a $345 fine. One such penalty was handed out in the North Okanagan, while another person in the South Okanagan was fined $230 for allowing a dog to pursue game.

“Dogs can be very tenacious and can chase an animal to the point it is so stressed it can cause death,” Myroniuk says.

In the Okanagan, the most common scenario is dogs chasing deer, Myroniuk says, although moose, elk and other animals can also be affected.

“Sometimes it’s a one off where the dog doesn’t normally chase deer, and we have to use our discretion to identify scenarios where it’s somewhat accidental. On the other hand, we have people who purposefully allow dogs to chase deer because they don’t want them in their yards or orchards,” Myroniuk says.

Another penalty handed out in the North Okanagan was harassing wildlife with a vehicle or device, a $345 fine. That could have involved a truck, ATV, boat, drone, or other device, Myroniuk says. Due to privacy reasons, he was not able to provide further details about specific fines issued in the North Okanagan.

Speaking generally, he said issues with devices such as drones are becoming more common.

“Particularly at this time of year, when (animals’) fat reserves are low, stress caused by being chased with drones can actually prove fatal in some circumstances,” he says. “Obviously there’s the ethics behind it as well. Similar to teasing or tormenting animals, it’s not ethically a good thing to be doing.”

On a recent patrol in the North Okanagan, only 20 per cent of people were compliant, Myroniuk says, adding that’s far too low.

“It’s not just a lack of awareness, but a willful choice not to comply,” he says. “It’s frustrating.”

No matter how innocuous the violation may seem — perhaps fishing without a license, or taking one too many fish — Myroniuk says if everyone thinks that way there could be big impacts on sustainability.

“You might think it’s just one fish or two fish, and you’re not really stealing from anyone. It may seem like a victimless crime, but those resources are here for everyone, and for our children’s children,” Myroniuk says.

Meanwhile, he says many people are not reporting violations when they witness them.

“They’re afraid of repercussions, that seems to be the number one reason people won’t call,” Myroniuk says.

What many may not know is you can remain completely confidential and still provide important information.

“We rely heavily on people taking the time to call us,” Myroniuk says.

Call 1-877-952-7277 (RAPP) or #7277 on TELUS Mobility Network to report a violation. You can also make a report online. 

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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