Wildlife sting could prove costly for Oliver guide outfitter | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Penticton News

Wildlife sting could prove costly for Oliver guide outfitter

James Darin Wiens of Oliver could face a huge fine after entering guilty pleas for hunting infractions in Penticton court today, Nov. 27, 2018.

PENTICTON - An Oliver guide outfitter could pay a high price for circumventing hunting laws after entering guilty pleas in court yesterday.

James Darin Wiens pleaded guilty to charges of hunting with bait, feeding dangerous wildlife and hunting from a vehicle in Penticton court, Nov. 27.

Crown Prosecutor John Blackman said Wiens was charged following an undercover operation involving B.C. Conservation Service officials and two wildlife officials from Idaho and Washington States in May 2016.

Wiens unknowingly made arrangements for a bear hunt with two American wildlife officers acting in an undercover capacity.

One officer played the role of a bear hunter, the other a friend who was along to take photos of the hunt.

Wiens was first contacted by the men on Feb. 26, 2016, and Wiens promised a 100 per cent success rate, booking the hunt for early May on Feb. 29.

The hunt took place over three days between May 9 and May 11. The American officers observed Wiens placing dog food, bacon and fryer oil at various baiting sites using a red jerry can.

On May 9 he was also observed taking a shot with a rifle out of the open window of his vehicle.

On May 10 a bear was observed at one of the bait sites and one of the American officers killed it.

Wiens hauled the bear to the road using his quad.

On June 29,  B.C. Conservation Service officers executed a search warrant on Wiens residence, seizing a rifle and a Polaris ATV.

Blackman sought a penalty of between $25,000 and $30,000 for the infractions,  including forfeiture of Wiens’s earnings of $6,305 for the hunt, his rifle and the quad he used to haul the bear.

He said Wiens, as a guide outfitter, occupied a position of trust, adding his hunts were to be conducted in accordance with regulations spelled out in the B.C. Hunting and Wildlife Act.

Defence lawyer Kevin Church told Judge Michelle Daneliuk his 51-year-old client had inherited his guide outfitting territory from his father.

Wiens had been raised by his grandmother, who died a short time before the undercover operation in 2016.

Church suggested the undercover operation had been carefully planned under a number of various possible daily scenarios.

He intimated it was more than mere coincidence one of the operatives told Wiens he had a limited time to conduct the hunt, as his grandmother was dying, saying the excuse was meant to put Wiens in a more vulnerable position.

He said his client had no prior criminal or wildlife record, noting Wiens’ guilty pleas had saved a lot of court time and costs involved in bringing witnesses in from distant locations.

Church suggested Wiens might also lose his guide permit as a result of the charges. He was agreeable to having Wiens’s firearm forfeited, but not the quad, because it was not used specifically in the hunt.

He told court Wiens likely only netted around $2,500 out of the total amount paid him for the hunt, with expenses accounting for the rest.

He said Wiens made between $120,000 and $150,000 “in a good year” and netted around $50,000 from guide outfitting. He also worked part time as a seasonal labourer.

Church also pointed out black bears are a prevalent animal in B.C., numbering an estimated 120,000 to 160,000. He asked that “no special consideration” be given to the shooting of the bear because of its abundance.

Church asked the judge to consider a sentence in the $10,000 range, to include the value of forfeited items, the profit derived from the hunt and the fines levied on the three charges.

Judge Daneliuk questioned Church further regarding his comments about the planned out scenarios for each day, noting concerns about Wiens’s behaviour were behind the undercover operation in the first place.

Church called the guiding business competitive, and said derogatory allegations would be easy for someone to make. He said there was no evidence his client had previously resorted to baiting in the past.

The judge also asked for clarification as to whether Wiens’s guiding licence would be pulled or not, noting the act would have a significant affect on his future income.

Blackman said it was speculative to say whether or not Wiens would lose his right to guide as a result of the charges, adding Wiens could lose his permit, have his rights curtailed, suspended or have nothing happen.

Blackman also took exception to Church’s submissions the U.S. operators introduced the grandmother story as an “emotional inducement” to prompt Wiens to commit the offences, telling the court he would like to call evidence if the judge was to consider the argument in her decision.

“The other point I have some real concerns is my friend has made submissions, he was careful, he didn’t say that Mr. Wiens had never done this before, and I’m talking about putting the oil out. If that’s left with the court, this was a one-off thing, that because somehow the grandmother, he did something he would never have done before, there’s no evidence of that either,” Blackman said.

The judge reserved her sentencing decision, telling both counsel to discuss the issue between themselves to see if the matters could be resolved. If further evidence is determined to be necessary, new court dates will have to be set in the new year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 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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