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Panorama Ridge resident pleads guilty to feeding bears

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Rico Suchy faces up to $50,000 fine and/or six months in jail

Local resident Rico Suchy has pleaded guilty to feeding bears at his Panorama Ridge home.

Conservation officers charged Suchy and wife Lisa Marie late last year after an extensive investigation into the allegations.

It is the first time someone has been charged and convicted for feeding bears, which is an offence under the B.C. Wildlife Act. He will be sentenced Dec. 16 in North Vancouver Provincial Court.

The charges against Lisa Suchy were stayed.

Until this month Suchy had denied feeding the bears though he agreed they came to his home where he spent hours watching them.

The bears would often bathe in a fishpond at the back of his property.

During an interview with Pique Newsmagazine last year he claimed the bears may have got food from tenants in his home.

He could not be reached for comment this week.

As a result of the feeding two bears had to be shot by conservation offices, who said at the time the bears had become habituated to humans and were potentially dangerous.

Another three bears had to be relocated.

"This sends a message to anyone who is thinking of feeding bears or has fed bears that they could be prosecuted and charged and could potentially be receiving a large fine for that activity," conservation officer Chris Doyle said this week.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a $50,000 fine and/or up to six months in jail.

Crown counsel Ralph Keefer said it’s unlikely Suchy will get the maximum penalty. But he believes the case and the final sentence sends a message to people who engage in this type of behaviour.

"I think the fact that he has been prosecuted and has now plead guilty to an offence that is quasi-criminal in nature, and I think it’s the first of its kind, sends a message and that is good," he said.

Sylvia Dolson, executive director of Whistler’s Jennifer Jones Bear Society is pleased Suchy has taken responsibility.

"It is a precedent-setting case and it has garnered media attention and that has made people aware that it is illegal to feed wildlife, whether it is intentional or unintentional, under provincial legislation," said Dolson.

"We are hoping for a substantial fine amount and the Crown also has the opportunity to suggest to the judge that (the fine) be applied to bear awareness education so we are hoping the money is funnelled back into education to mitigate these kinds of things in the future.

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