A Tie Lake man has been fined $14,000 and sentenced to hunting and firearms bans for five years after illegally shooting a deer and a black bear in his yard in separate incidents a few years ago.
Frank Velba, a 73-year-old retired electrician, was also issued a no contact order with a Tie Lake neighbour who confronted him after one shooting.
Velba, who was charged and pleaded guilty to a number of wildlife offences, used a .22 calibre rifle to shoot the whitetail deer in the gut after it ate flowers from his garden on Sept. 5, 2016.
Velba initially told Conservation Officers Services that he shot the deer with a .177 pellet gun, but admitted a month later to authorities it was with a more powerful .22 calibre, which he owned illegally without a valid firearms license.
In addition to the deer shooting, Velba’s fines also covered another incident in June 2015 where he killed a black bear by shooting it less than 20 feet away where it ran up a tree, fell down and died, according to a witness.
In a brief address to the Cranbrook Provincial Court chambers and Judge Lynal Doerksen, Velba apologized for his actions.
“I’m sorry it happened, it will never happen again,” Velba told the court. “I wish it never happened.”
The circumstances of the case were jointly presented to Judge Doerksen for consideration, while crown and defence lawyers argued over the size of the fines.
Doerksen said while nuisance deer are a problem in the East Kootenay, Velba’s actions were disturbing. Guilty pleas in the face of overwhelming evidence, along with no criminal history, were mitigating factors, however, misleading conservation officers was an aggravating factor, said Doerksen, noting Velba was lucky he wasn’t charged with obstruction.
“It’s an affront to the law and the regulations that he lied to the Conservation Officers, that he tried to deflect blame from himself,” said Doerksen.
Speaking to the Cranbrook Townsman after attending the sentencing, Perry Van Mill, a neighbour who lives across Tie Lake Shore Rd. from Velba, said he was inside his house when he heard what sounded like a gun shot.
“My daughter said, ‘Dad, somebody just shot a deer; I saw it,’” Van Mill said.
Van Mill left his house and immediately went over to confront Velba, adding that he witnessed Velba putting a gun away in his garage. His daughter went over to try and comfort the deer, which took approximately 20 minutes to die.
Van Mill then went and called the authorities.
Velba’s lawyer argued his client didn’t want to finish off the deer with another shot because the initial gunshot attracted bystanders that made the area unsafe for discharging a firearm.
Van Mill said he was satisfied with the sentencing.
“Excellent, I think so,” Van Mill said. “…The judge was smart, he figured it out. He knew what was going on.”
In addition to the deer incident, Velba also pleaded guilty to shooting a bear in June 2015.
According to the joint submission, another neighbour witnessed Velba shoot a black bear from less than 20 feet away that ran up a tree, fell out and died.
A percentage of Velba’s fines will be directed to the Habitat Conservation Fund.