Two men have pleaded guilty to charges related to a poaching incident from 2014. A third man, who was with them at the time of the incident, has pleaded not guilty.
Shawn Earl and Dustin Zuffa, both from Fernie, pleaded guilty to a count of illegal transportation of an animal and possession of deceased wildlife. Earl pleaded guilty to an additional charge of restricting or obstructing a conservation officer from doing their duty.
According to the courts, Earl and Zuffa, along with Andrew Storey, were hunting on private property in the Crowsnest Pass area on Sept. 30, 2014. Earl said he had permission to hunt on the private property, as he was related to the landowners. The three men shot a mule buck deer on the property and transported it back to B.C., where they posed for a picture with the dead animal and posted it to social media.
The men were charged in both B.C. and Alberta for different law infringements. Under Alberta regulations, they were hunting in closed season and did not possess a valid Alberta hunting license to hunt mule deer. They faced charges in Alberta in June of 2015, resulting in $12,000 worth of fines and a two-year hunting prohibition.
The men were charged separately in B.C. for the concern of transporting wildlife into the province from Alberta. Conservation officers told the court this was to protect B.C. from chronic wasting disease, a condition found in some deer in Alberta. The disease, which was compared to Mad Cow disease, came to Alberta from Saskatchewan, and B.C. has strict regulations about transporting out-of-province wildlife to protect the wildlife in B.C. The disease has been known to desecrate the areas it contaminates, and can remain in the area for up to 10 years.
The disease is found in the spinal tissue and brain of infected animals, not the meat. For that reason, meat from out-of-province is permitted, but not the entire animal carcass.
Earl was required to pay $4,000 in fines and is prohibited from hunting or trapping for five years. He is also prohibited from being in the company of anyone who is hunting in that time.
Zuffa was required to pay a fine of $3,000 and is prohibited from hunting or being in the presence of someone who is hunting for five years. He is allowed to trap animals, under the condition that he does not carry a firearm above a .22 caliber while trapping.
Storey, who is pleading not guilty, will be in court in relation to the incident in the spring.