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Bear shooter pleads guilty

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A 24-year-old West Vancouver resident has avoided trial after pleading guilty to shooting a black bear cub near Whistler Secondary School on May 8.

In an Oct. 17 appearance at North Vancouver Provincial Court, Andrew Dylan Robertson pled guilty to two charges under the Wildlife Act: hunting during a closed season and hunting without consideration, according to a record of proceedings.

He’ll now face a $1,800 fine and is banned from hunting for three years. The money is to go towards the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund.

Robertson originally faced three more charges that were all dismissed: careless use of a firearm, unsafe storage of ammunition and discharging a firearm in a no shooting area — the latter is also an offence under the Wildlife Act.

The RCMP initially reported in May that Robertson could also face the Wildlife Act charge of hunting without a license but a spokesman later said he would only be charged with careless use of a firearm.

The charges stem from an incident that occurred the morning of May 8. Staff and students were arriving at Whistler Secondary School when the bear was seen on the Valley Trail.

The bear had been hanging out near the school since at least late April, feeding on skunk cabbage in a nearby swamp. Students at the school knew of the bear and had reportedly fed apples to it, according to bear researcher Michael Allen.

A witness later heard two shots and saw a male getting into a vehicle holding what she thought was a shotgun. She then called the RCMP.

The suspect was located within 15 minutes of the call and arrested without incident. Police used search dogs in an attempt to locate the shotgun but they did not find it. Robertson did not cooperate with the investigation, refusing to disclose the location of the shotgun, according to the RCMP.

Sgt. Steve Wright at the RCMP’s Whistler detachment said police discovered the gun at a residence close to where it was shot about a week after the incident. Police recovered the gun after receiving anonymous information.

The shooting was just one of 12 bear kills that occurred in Whistler since black bears came out of hibernation in the spring. The B.C. Conservation Officer Service has destroyed nine bears in the Whistler area after conflicts with humans. One was killed in a highway accident and a train hit another.

Chris Doyle, a supervisor with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service, was pleased with the outcome of the court proceedings.

“The seriousness of the Wildlife Act offenses were definitely stressed by the penalty imposed,” he said.

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