British Columbia Convicts Bear Poacher

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A Williams Lake resident has been convicted and fined a total of $11,000 in connection with the illegal shooting of a grizzly bear in Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park in 2004.

Don Kunka pleaded guilty to one count under section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act and was fined $9,000, with $8,000 of that fine to be paid to the Grizzly Bear Conservation Trust Fund. Kunka also plead guilty to one count under section 29 of the Parks and Recreation Area Regulation, and was fined $2,000 for illegally discharging a firearm in a provincial park.

In September 2004, a female grizzly bear was shot and left wounded and paralysed on the banks of the Atnarko River. The incident was not reported to any authorities and it was approximately 18 hours before park officials were able to put the bear down safely. There were no initial suspects. After a 24-month investigation by the conservation officer service in Bella Coola, and numerous tips from the public, charges were laid in 2007.

Environment Minister Barry Penner would like to thank the Conservation Officer Service, members of the public and the BC Wildlife Federation for their assistance in providing information regarding this case.

The maximum penalty for a first offence conviction under the recently amended BC Wildlife Act is $250,000 up from the previous $50,000 maximum. The penalty can also include imprisonment for a term of two years, up from the previous six months imprisonment. Either or both of these penalties can be imposed under the B.C. Wildlife Act. Park Act offences have a maximum penalty of $200,000. Administrative sanctions may also be imposed.

Illegal hunting and fishing activities threaten provincial fish and wildlife resources. Minister Penner encourages the public to report all poachers and polluters by calling 1-877-952-RAPP (7277), #RAPP (7277) on the TELUS Mobility Network, or by visiting the website at www.rapp.bc.ca.

The BC Wildlife Federation offers a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the conviction of persons breaking wildlife laws, vandalizing private property and breaking other property laws.

Five new conservation officers have been hired this year to enhance the capacity of the Conservation Officer Service to participate in collaborative compliance projects with external partners, and engage in additional compliance activities throughout the province. These officers will be placed in Fort St. John, Golden, Vernon, Nanaimo and Surrey.

In addition, the Conservation Officer Service opened a new office on July 18 in Maple Ridge in the Fraser Valley to help provide enhanced response times.

The ministry is also investing $1 million this year in the Conservation Officer Service's commercial environmental investigations unit (CEIU). Launched last year, the unit focuses on environmental compliance primarily related to commercial and industrial activities. The CEIU has eight senior investigators and a manager located in five key areas of the province – Prince George, Kamloops, Nelson, Surrey and Nanaimo.

The Ministry of Environment's Quarterly Compliance and Enforcement summaries can be viewed online at www.env.gov.bc.ca/main/prgs/compliancereport.html. In 2007, a total of 2,068 violation tickets and 64 convictions resulted in more than $650,000 in environmental fines.