By Tim Petruk
Kamloops This Week
The ongoing trial of a Kamloops man accused in the 1999 cross-border poaching of a record-setting Dall sheep underscores an issue plaguing our territorial neighbours to the north — B.C. hunters illegally killing Yukon animals.
That’s according to a man who’s spent the last 35 years patrolling the Yukon wilds for illegal hunting.
The top photo shows Kamloops hunter Abe Dougan and his record-setting Dall sheep in 1999. He said the animal was killed in northwestern B.C. The mountain depicted in the photo below is in the Yukon — 18 kilometres north of the B.C./Yukon border. Both photos were entered as evidence by the Crown during Dougan’s poaching trial in Kamloops.
The top photo shows Kamloops hunter Abe Dougan and his record-setting Dall sheep in 1999. He said the animal was killed in northwestern B.C., where he was licensed to hunt sheep. The mountain depicted in the photo below is in the Yukon — 18 kilometres north of the B.C./Yukon border. Both photos were entered as evidence by the Crown during Dougan’s poaching trial in Kamloops.
Kris Gustafson, a conservation officer based in Whitehorse, was the lead investigator in putting together the case against Abe Dougan, the Kamloops man facing a dozen federal wildlife charges alleging he illegally killed a record-setting Dall sheep in the Yukon 15 years ago.
He said B.C. hunters authorized to hunt big game in parts of B.C. adjacent to the Yukon routinely cross the territorial border and kill animals in the Yukon.
“It’s a concern for us,” Gustafson, who is now director of conservation-officer services for Environment Yukon, told KTW outside court.
“We have concerns respecting any illegal harvesting of wildlife — and that’s a big one.”
Gustafson told court he was the driving force behind a Yukon conservation campaign in the 1980s to keep B.C. hunters in their own province.
That included a program that set up signs along the border and on the shores of float-plane-friendly lakes warning hunters they were no longer in B.C. That program, Gustafson said, is still in operation.
Court has heard Dougan in 1999 received special authorization via lottery to hunt sheep — a limited-entry hunt — in a specific part of northwestern B.C. between the Yukon and Alaska borders.
He bagged a record-setting Dall sheep, which was the second-largest ever recorded in B.C. The score made its way into the pages of the fifth edition of Big Game Records of British Columbia when it was published in 2003.
In 2011, conservation officials in the Yukon received a tip from a confidential informant telling them to look closely at the B.C. record book — specifically at the picture of Dougan with his record sheep.
The tipster said the photo was taken in the Yukon.
A mapping specialist with Environment Yukon then created a three-dimensional computer model of the Yukon mountains and searched until he found what looked like the matching spot.
In July 2011, a team of three investigators, including Gustafson, flew by helicopter to the site, 18 kilometres north of the B.C./Yukon border.
They took photos from what the Crown says is the exact location the photographer who shot Dougan’s picture would have been standing. The Crown contends the mountains depicted in the backgrounds are identical and prosecutor Lesley Ann Kilgore called the area “unique” geographically.
Court has heard Dougan, after killing the sheep, was required to tell B.C. officials where it was killed. He gave them a location in the section of northwestern B.C. where he was authorized to hunt.
Defence lawyer Kevin Church has questioned the authenticity of the photos and the fact investigators failed to visit the location where Dougan claimed to have killed the sheep.
“They don’t ever go to where Mr. Dougan says he shot this sheep,” he said. “They never even try.”
Lawyers will meet next week to set a date for the trial to resume.