$24K fine for bear baiting

A Penticton judge had some strong words for a South Okanagan hunting guide Monday, as she fined him more than $24,000 for hunting black bears with bait.

James Darin Wiens, 51, pleaded guilty last year to three Wildlife Act charges stemming from an international investigation into Vaseux Creek Outfitters.

Working on a confidential source, the BC Conservation Officer Service enlisted the help of two American conservation officers who went undercover as clients seeking to hunt a black bear.

During the hunt over the span of four days in 2016, the officers observed Wiens pouring fryer grease and dog food at various locations in the bush to attract bears. A bear was shot and killed by the group at one of the baited sites.

Judge Michelle Daneliuk ruled Monday baiting the bear "transformed it into a sitting duck.”

“This was not a hunt, this was a shooting gallery created by Mr. Wiens,” she said.

“This is dishonourable and disgraceful conduct on the part of someone that has been benefiting from the privilege, as licensed by the Province of B.C., to hunt animals for profit throughout his entire adult life.”

Wiens has operated his hunting guide business for more than 30 year after inheriting it from his father, leading Daneliuk to remark, if there is anyone that knows what he was doing was wrong, it would be Wiens.

Daneliuk ordered Wiens pay an $18,000 penalty to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, $500 in court fines, surrender the rifle used to slay the bear and pay back the $6,300 he collected from the undercover officers for the hunt.

The Crown had sought a $25,000-$30,000 penalty while the defence suggested $7,500.

Prior to her sentencing, Daneliuk warned Wiens that she had the authority to issue much larger fines or even jail time for the offences and would do so should he reoffend.

Wiens remains licensed to operate as a guide outfitter in the Oliver area, but may be subject to sanction through a curtailment of operating area, suspension of license or termination of licence by provincial regulators now that he’s been convicted.

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