Charges ruin taxidermist

A Keremeos taxidermist lost his business, has been ostracized by the hunting community, and has become estranged to his father as the result of poaching charges laid against him earlier this year.

Derek Sward, 36, pleaded guilty to one count of hunting out of season and one count of illegal possession of wildlife Wednesday in Penticton court, receiving a $3,150 fine and two year hunting ban.

Nine other Wildlife Act charges against him were stayed.

Crown prosecutor Mallory Tredennick told the courtroom that Sward shot and killed a five-point elk in an area that had a six-point opening. The offence occurred around Cranbrook in Oct. 2015.

He was reported by his hunting companion, who alleged Sward was taking advantage of the companion’s First Nations status to illegally harvest the animal. Sward denies that was his motivation, and claims he shot an Elk that was previously shot and wounded by his First Nations companion.

Neither the crown or the defence presented any evidence backing up their claims for what motivated the crime.

“This incident has put an end to Mr. Sward’s business as a taxidermist,” the defence lawyer told the courtroom, noting several clients pulled their business from Sward when the news of the charges broke.

“His father, with whom he had been close, is a well-known member of the B.C. Wildlife Federation, known as a conservationist. It’s had an impact on his reputation, and this incident has caused the two of them to become estranged,” the lawyer added.

Considerable social and traditional media coverage of the crimes have also brought shame to Sward, who now works as a warehouse worker at a modest salary.

Prior to the incident, Sward was a well-known volunteer within the local conservation community, which Judge Gregory Koturbash acknowledged, but stated Sward should have known better.

“It’s almost like a person that does a lot of good for an organization, but rips off that organization,” Koturbash said, adding the crime nullifies much of his good work.

Koturbash also acknowledged Sward’s loss of his business and relationship with his father, but said a “clear message needs to be sent” to the hunting community about these crimes.

“It’s definitely been a black-eye on my life, and I do apologize to everyone that’s been involved,” Sward told the judge prior to being sentenced.

Of the $3,150 fine handed to Sward, $2,000 will be forwarded to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.

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