A man accused of illegally killing a grizzly bear in November 2011 was sentenced to pay a $100 fine and donate another $9,900 to a wildlife conservation fund following a provincial court appearance in Pemberton on Oct. 3.
Brett Michael Eyben, 33, of Squamish, also has to forfeit the gun he used to kill the mature male and he’s prohibited from hunting for the next 12 months. Eyben hasn’t hunted for the last two years, one the conditions imposed by the court while the allegations against him were processed.
Judge Joanne Challenger noted in her reasons for judgment that the maximum fine she could impose is $50,000.
“I find that a fine of $10,000 is appropriate,” she said, after explaining that she used rulings in similar cases to guide her.
The judge did not specify which wildlife conservation fund would received the $9,900.
Eyben appeared for the sentencing hearing dressed in a dark suit and didn’t speak throughout the proceedings at the provincial court.
Allen McEwan, the president of the Pemberton Wildlife Association, was in attendance and he said after the sentencing that he wanted a larger fine in this case.
“While I respect the judge’s decision in that she recognized the significance of this particular animal in a grizzly population that’s threatened, I would say that the fine is not nearly what I had hoped for,” he said.
McEwan said the death of the 360-kg (800-lb) bear brought awareness to the grizzly bear conservation needs in the Pemberton area.
“I’m glad that it’s over because it’s taken far too long,” said McEwan. “Two years to bring something like this to court seems extraordinarily long.”
Challenger said in her sentencing speech that Eyben shot the grizzly from a distance of 39 metres on a snowy day near the Pemberton end of the Hurley River Road. Eyben had a tag to take a black bear and he indicated to the court that when he saw the bear and took his shot he believed he was shooting at a black bear.
In delivering her sentence Challenger noted that Eyben didn’t immediately report the shooting of the grizzly to the Conservation Officer Service (COS).
Even though McEwan hoped for a higher fine he said there was a message for hunters from the court decision.
“I would like to believe that we’ll see less of this, however inexperienced hunters are likely to make that sort of mistake again so hunter education is really important,” McEwan said.
The grizzly bear in this case was described by the COS as an important part of the grizzly bear conservation program in the Pemberton area. Sgt. Peter Busink of the COS said before the sentencing hearing that the 20-year-old bear was in good health prior to the shooting.
"This bear represented an important genetic link between fractured populations of grizzly bears in the area," said Busink.
DNA evidence collected indicates the bear mated with at least four female grizzly bears within its 500 square kilometre area range before it died.
Bear poaching concerns and any other wildlife issues should be reported to the COS by calling 1-(800)-952-7277.