North Okanagan deer farmer vows to fight court case 'to the bitter end'

Richard Yntema has farmed fallow deer since 1991.

ENDERBY - An outspoken farmer in the North Okanagan says provincial authorities do not intimidate him, even now that he’s facing charges in court.

Richard Yntema owns and operates Rivers Bend Fallow Deer Farm in Enderby, where Ministry of Environment officials showed up one year ago and shot nearly 30 fallow deer based on alleged contraventions under the Wildlife Act. Fallow deer are not native to the area but can be legally game-farmed in B.C. with a license. Yntema has been deer farming since 1991 and sells the meat to high-end restaurants.

He was charged this June with failing to properly fence or secure game from escaping, unlawful possession of live wildlife, and the release or escape of animals. One of the offences is from 2014, and the other two are from 2015.

“I’m going to fight these charges right to the bitter end,” he says.

Yntema, who is representing himself in court, says he plans to plead not guilty. No date has been set for the trial, and his next appearance is Nov. 7 in Salmon Arm Provincial Court.

“Someone needs to be held accountable,” Yntema says. “It’s simply irresponsible and totally heavy handed.”

A provincial wildlife biologist told last year that Yntema was given many opportunities to comply with the regulations before the search warrant was executed on Oct. 6, 2016. At the time, she said there were complaints about deer escaping off the property and the Ministry of Environment was concerned about the animals establishing an invasive, wild population. Officers first tried to catch the deer for relocation, but only managed to capture two of them, she said. Another 27 were shot and killed, and two were found dead.

Yntema says he knew there were compliance issues and was trying to address them.

“I’ve been deer farming for 25 years. My deer, I acknowledge, have escaped from time to time when there’s a storm and a tree falls on the fence. I go and round up my deer,” he says.

He suggests it would have cost the government less money to work together with him on the compliance issues, rather than prosecuting him in court.

“I believe I’ve never done something so bad that warranted them coming onto my place and literally tearing my livelihood as a deer farmer away from me by shooting all my deer,” he says.

Meanwhile, Yntema is also writing to the Ministry of Agriculture to ask them to reinstate his game farming license and compensate him for lost income. He also wants to see disciplinary action taken against those involved in the seizure and a public apology.

He says the court case is like a “David and Goliath” scenario, but he’s not giving up.

“They picked the wrong guy,” he says.

FILE PHOTO: Richard Yntema holds the search warrant in one hand, and his game farm license (which expired Jan. 31, 2014) in his other.
FILE PHOTO: Richard Yntema holds the search warrant in one hand, and his game farm license (which expired Jan. 31, 2014) in his other.

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