The Crown prosecution is laying six charges against a local farmer from Dunster in relation to four grizzly bears being shot in 2014.
Arland Harry Baer is charged by the Crown under the Wildlife Act with: Hunting without a license, hunting wildlife not within an open season, unlawful possession of dead wildlife, fail to report killing or wounding wildlife, fail to correctly state the location where and on the date of which wildlife came into a person’s possession and obstruction of an officer and his/her performing duties of the Wildlife Act.
Baer did not respond to The Goat’s phone calls by press time.
Rory Smith, a sergeant for B.C. Conservation based out of Prince George, says conservation started an investigation roughly a year-and-a-half ago, which lasted roughly 12 months.
“As a result of that investigation, we determined four grizzly bears had been killed,” says Smith, confirming they had been shot. “How else would you kill a grizzly?”
While conservation gets hundreds of calls every year regarding destruction of wildlife, Smith says it’s uncommon for enforcement action to be taken.
This is one of the few cases where the opposite is true, he says.
“Because it involves grizzlies… we pay a lot more attention,” says Smith. “There is a public expectation we do our jobs efficiently.”
However, a few locals who asked to remain anonymous, say Baer was within his rights to defend his property, as well as the lives of his animals.
The Wildlife Act, according to conservation, has provisions to protect and property owner in situations similar to Baers.
“If you own property, and in protecting life or property, you can destroy animals if it’s justified under the act,” says Smith, noting it is under section 26.
“But, you are required to report it right away,” he says.
Baer made his first court appearance on Aug. 5 in McBride Provincial Court, according to conservation, and his second appearance is scheduled for Oct. 7.
Any case conservation is forced to investigate, Smith says, begins with an inspection. Conservation goes out and speaks with people, examines the carcass(es), and examines the circumstance to verify that they are true as conservation understands them to be, he says.
A common misconception, according to Smith, is that Grizzly Bears are an endangered species. They aren’t, he says.
In some regions of B.C., there are lots of Grizzlies, he says, whereas other areas there are barely any.
“They’re a species of concern,” Smith says. “If they were endangered, there wouldn’t be any hunting at all.”
There are approximately 15,000 Grizzlies in B.C., according to the provincial government’s Ministry of Environment, which is 25 per cent of North America’s grizzly population.
The ministry says the province has divided up Grizzly populations into 56 areas for measurement, nine of which are classified as threatened.
The Robson Valley is not in one of the threatened regions.
Since 1976, the ministry says an average of 340 Grizzly bears are killed from human causes.
On average, the ministry says 297 are legally killed by hunters, while 31 are killed by animal control officers due to human/ bear conflicts annually. On average, eight are killed illegally, and four killed on roads and railways.
However, as the ministry points out, some illegal and road- and rail-caused deaths go undetected.
Conservation confirmed there has been bears spotted on Dunster properties again this year, and that it is aware of the situation. An officer is in the area to deal with the issue, it says.
“We want to work with people to solve these problems,” says Smith. “So they don’t get themselves in hot water by taking steps they shouldn’t be taking.”
Anyone who comes in contact with wildlife is encouraged to call the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) line, Smith says.