Alberta is home to a diverse range of big game species, and many different hunters come from different provinces, and even different countries, for a shot at the right trophy. However, these visitors are still expected to respect the laws that protect our fish and wildlife resources, and our officers often partner with officers from other jurisdictions to bring some cases to a conclusion.
On June 2, in Pincher Creek Provincial Court, Shawn Earl, Dustin Zuffa and Andrew Storey from Fernie, British Columbia, pleaded guilty to hunting wildlife during a closed season. They were ordered to pay fines totalling $12,000 and were suspended from hunting for two years.
The investigation began on October 1, 2014, after Blairmore Fish and Wildlife Officers received a tip from a landowner in the Crowsnest Pass. The investigating officer found a mule deer had recently been killed at the reported location. The officer collected a DNA sample and found other evidence that suggested the perpetrators may be from British Columbia.
Alberta Fish and Wildlife contacted the British Columbia Conservation Officer Service in Fernie, and, as a result of their investigation, found photos posted to a public social media website showing two of the accused posing with a large mule deer buck. They claimed to have killed the deer in British Columbia, and one of the suspects had placed his BC hunting tag on the deer to cover the illegal kill.
BC Conservation Officers began an exhaustive investigation that led to the seizure of the head of a large mule deer buck from one of the accused. Additional deer parts were seized from a second accused. The seized deer parts as well as tissue from the kill site in Alberta were submitted to the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch forensic lab in Edmonton. The samples matched.
Investigators confirmed that none of the three suspects had purchased Alberta mule deer licences in 2014. Although only one deer was killed, all three of the accused travelled together to Alberta to participate in the hunt, so they were all found guilty of the same offence. Officers learned that one of the accused had hoped to enter the antlers into a local trophy competition.
The BC Conservation Officer Service continues to investigate the matter.
Anyone with information that would help solve any fish or wildlife crime in Alberta is asked to contact a local Alberta Fish and Wildlife Enforcement office or call the 24-hour, toll-free Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800. Anyone who provides information can remain anonymous and could qualify for a reward.