PENTICTON - An Oliver man who baited bears for his American hunting clients escaped a jail term but is going to be out of pocket a very large sum of money after he was sentenced in Penticton court today.
James Darin Wiens was caught by the B.C. Conservation Service in a sting operation involving two American conservation officers posing as bear hunters on a bear hunt guided by Wiens in May of 2016.
Wiens entered guilty pleas to charges of hunting with bait, feeding dangerous wildlife and hunting from a vehicle in Penticton court on Nov. 27, 2018.
Crown Prosecutor John Blackman asked Judge Michelle Daneliuk for a fine of between $21,000 and $30,000, most of which was to be directed to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.
Blackman also argued Wiens should undergo forfeiture of a $600 rifle and a Polaris ATV which was used to haul a bear carcass out of the bush, in addition to forfeiture of his guide fees for the hunt, which totalled $6,305.
Defence lawyer Kevin Church called the Crown’s request “an unprecedented amount” for charges, and argued the ATVs use in the incident was only ancillary.
Church said the $6,305 guide fee wasn’t representative of the monetary benefits received by Wiens, noting his expenses cost around $3,500.
He argued the sentence should be in the order of $7,500, along with forfeiture of Wiens's rifle.
Judge Daneliuk said Wiens showed remorse for his actions and entered an early guilty plea, adding he faces other consequences than court for his actions, including loss of reputation and possibly losing his guiding license.
She called Wiens’ action an “abuse of trust,” calling his guiding privileges a social contract with society.
She noted the 51-year-old owner of Vaseux Creek Outfitters had been in the business since inheriting the guiding operation from his father in the mid- 1970s, and said he should have known the rules better than anyone.
“He was prepared to risk his reputation, his livelihood, his family’s well-being and the privilege afforded to him by the licensing regime established by the government, all in order to satisfy the purported desire of someone who he believed to be a tourist from the United States, to come and kill a black bear,” she said, adding Wien’s actions of placing dog food and other attractants at strategic locations amounted to transforming the bear into a “sitting duck.”
“In this court’s opinion, this was not a hunt, this was a shooting gallery, created by Mr. Wiens,” the judge said.
“This is dishonourable and disgraceful conduct on the part of someone who was benefitting from the privilege, as licensed by the Province of B.C., to hunt animals for profit through his entire adult life,” Judge Daneliuk said, sentencing Wiens to a $500 fine on the three counts, and a monetary contribution of $18,000 to be provided to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.
WIens was also fined the $6,305 proceeds from the hunt and forfeited his rifle.
His ATV was not seized.
“You should know, judges have considerable discretion as to the type of sentence to be imposed under the Wildlife Act. In this case, it is within my authority to sentence you to a period of incarceration. In the United States, I am aware of cases where people who bait bears in a hunting situation have been sent to jail,” the judge told Wiens, adding she could also prohibit Wiens from operating his business, hunting or owning a firearm.
The judge acknowledged Wiens' clean record up to this point, telling Wiens she mentioned her alternative sentencing options in order to make it clear to him that any repetition of an offence under the Wildlife Act would be met with even more severe consequences in the future.
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