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       SASKATCHEWAN
A lengthy investigation into unlawful outfitting in the Leader area of southwestern Saskatchewan resulted in one guilty plea and a trial with guilty verdicts. In mid-October 2014, conservation officers from the Leader field area received intelligence from Spiritwood conservation officers about some possible unlawful outfitting. They learned that a hunter had been hunting in the Great Sand Hills area and had encountered two First Nations
men and a fellow from Texas hunting mule deer. With this information, officers from Leader stepped up their patrols in that area. Although First Nations people can legally hunt for big game on private land with the permission of the land owner, non-residents of Canada are not allowed to hunt mule deer.

On October 25, 2014, Leader officers, while patrolling one of the large ranches in the Great Sand Hills, observed two trucks, travelling together, go into the McKnight Ranch. The McKnight Ranch is a huge ranch with some excellent deer hunting habitat. Officers caught up to one of the trucks and conducted a compliance check. In the truck were Charles and Neal Meechance, members of the Red Pheasant First Nation. Inspection of the truck revealed two encased rifles in the back seat as well as a tarp with blood on it in the box. The two men advised officers that a mule deer doe had been taken earlier in the day. Permission had been granted by the landowner to hunt under their treaty rights so there were no noted violations at this point.

Officers left to search for the second truck, which was also located. Gerald Meechance and Steven Pritchard were found to be in this truck, but once again, hunting permission had been granted. When officers queried the names of the four men they discovered there was history of unlawful
outfitting off of First Nations land. Because there were no other hunters with the men at the time, they were sent on their way. Leader officers then contacted conservation officers from North Battleford to be on the lookout should anyone come in for a First Nation Export Permit
in the near future.

On October 28, 2014, a Leader conservation officer received a phone call from one of the North Battleford officers about an application for a large, non-typical mule deer. The officer from North Battleford checked the permit application to see where the deer had been harvested. The permit stated that the deer was taken on the Red Pheasant reserve. Although he had suspicions about where the deer was harvested, the officer had insufficient grounds to seize the deer, so a permit was issued.

As with every export permit, photos were taken and attached to the permit. This permit and the photos of the mule deer were then sent to the Leader officers. The Leader officer met with a local wildlife enthusiast who was also an avid shed hunter and showed him the picture of the deer on the export permit. This individual immediately recognized the deer and had numerous shed antlers from this deer in his possession. He had found all the shed antlers on the McKnight Ranch where the Leader officers had checked the four First Nations hunters a few days earlier. As the investigation continued, the Leader officer came into possession of photos of an American hunter posing with a deer that matched the mule deer on the export permit. It was clear that the photo was taken in habitat found in the Great Sand Hills of southwest Saskatchewan and not on the Red Pheasant reserve.

In mid-January 2015, one of the North Battleford officers came across two Instagram photos of the same deer on the internet. The deer had been caped in these photos and had been posed on a set of corrals. This Instagram photo provided the identity of the American hunter and information that he had hunted with outfitters from Red Pheasant First Nation. An examination of the photo revealed a set of corrals with a red gate in the background. Officers thought that these corrals might be located near the area where the original check of the First Nation men had occurred and a visit to the area turned up the corrals with the red gate in the photo. Now, officers had enough information and evidence that the deer was unlawfully
taken by a client of a First Nation outfitter and not from First Nations land as required by law.


With the cooperation of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, a search warrant was obtained and executed in the United States. Through an attorney, two American hunters were contacted and statements about the hunt were obtained. The antlers were surrendered to wildlife officials and were secured and returned to Saskatchewan. In October 2016, several charges were laid against Charles Meechance, Gerald Meechance, Neal Meechance, and Steven Pritchard.

In November 2016, Charles Meechance pled guilty to unlawfully acting as guide, unlawfully aiding, abetting, counselling, or procuring the contravention of a provision of The Wildlife Act, 1998, and for unlawfully providing false information. Charles Meechance was fined a total of $10,920 and issued a five-year court order with the following conditions:

●Not be in the company of anyone involved in any aspect of hunting other than on the lands of a First Nation in the Province of Saskatchewan or in the company of another treaty person hunting for subsistence;
● Provide any details or other information as requested by the Ministry of Environment on all animals killed while outfitting;
●Ensure all clients attend a Ministry of Environment office in person and swear an affidavit that all information and details of the hunt are true; and
●Obtain an export permit for every animal harvested by his or her client.

The other three men pleaded not guilty and a trial was set for May 18, 2017. Arrangements were made with the American hunters to testify via phone and provide evidence for the Crown. In addition to the American hunters, Charles Meechance and the landowner were also called to provide
evidence for the crown. Photographic analysis of the antlers and evidence from the corrals confirmed that the deer was hunted and harvested on lands some 300 km away from the Red Pheasant First Nation.

The Crown’s first witness was one of the hunters who had hunted with the Meechances during this time frame. He testifiedthat he and his friend first hunted big game in Saskatchewan in 2006 with a bear hunt in the Hudson Bay area. In 2007,the US hunters met with Charles and Neal Meechance at a big game hunting expo in Wisconsin. Plans were made to come upand hunt in Saskatchewan in 2007. That year they hunted with Charles Meechance, then moved on to Neal Meechance, and then finally to Gerald Meechance. The American hunter told the court that he had hunted with a member of the Meechance family for five years.

Moving forward, a hunt was arranged for the fall of 2014. The two American hunters arrived on October 21 2014, and after travel, they started to hunt on October 22. The American hunter testified that Charles Meechance had arranged the hunt. The hunters paid Charles Meechance $2,500 USD per person and $300 for the deer licence. For this fee, both hunters were to get a week-long hunt where they would be able to hunt mule deer, white-tailed deer, moose, antelope, elk, bear, wolf, and two other species that he could not recall. The American hunters liked this licensing agreement as it was unlike anywhere else and allowed a choice and some variety in the hunt. Once they harvested one animal, they could pay a fee of $1,000 USD as well as another $300 for a licence which would allow them to harvest a second animal of their choice. Gerald Meechance was to
provide the hunters with guides, vehicles, and stands/bait to hunt on the Red Pheasant First Nation. During most of the hunt, the American hunter stated that Gerald Meechance and Steven Pritchard guided him in one vehicle while Charles Meechance and Neal Meechance guided his hunting partner in another vehicle. Both hunters knew that they should be hunting on First Nations land, but did not know where the land was and simply accepted what Gerald Meechance had told them.

With no success in the first couple of days, on October 24, 2014, Gerald Meechance suggested that they should go and hunt elsewhere. Gerald approached and said there was some private land that they could hunt on that was about three hours away. They explained that Charles Meechance had a buddy who owned the land and they could hunt on it, and as long as they were with a First Nations outfitter that everything was OK.

Soon they were on the road, travelling to the southwest part of the province near Hazlet, Saskatchewan. After their arrival, they hunted the rest of the day in the sand hills but did not have any success. They called it a day and went to Swift Current for the night. On October 25, the two hunters separated, again in different trucks, and went out to a large ranch owned by the McKnights. Each American had two First Nation guides with them as they hunted the ranch.

By mid-morning, one of the American hunters had the opportunity to shoot a very large mule deer. Once the deer was down, it was loaded onto one of the trucks and driven out of the hills. It was photographed by the happy hunters and then quartered. The trophy deer was taken back to Swift Current and put on ice. They then continued to hunt for the rest of the day on the McKnight Ranch in hopes of harvesting another big deer. Around four in the afternoon, the hunters and guides saw a conservation officer’s truck parked in an old yard site. The American hunters were surprised at
how fast they and their guides vacated the area. Both vehicles then stopped and the two American hunters were advised by Gerald Meechance that they were going to take their guns, but leave the two hunters in the bush until they could get things straightened out with the conservation officers. They were not given any explanation as to why this was happening but they remained hidden in the bush for about two hours until they were picked up.

At this time, there seemed to be a bit of urgency for the outfitter and guides to leave the area. They drove back to Swift Current to get the deer, and travel back to the Red Pheasant reserve. As there were still a few days of hunting left, the American hunter who harvested the mule deer paid an additional $1,300 to keep hunting. They were then told by Gerald Meechance that if anyone questioned where they got the deer, they should say that the mule deer was shot off a bait site on the reserve. They hunted the last couple of days of their trip on the reserve over bait but did
not see anything.

On October 28, the American hunter came into the North Battleford office to get an export permit for the harvested mule deer. The application was signed by the hunter and Gerald Meechance. The application also stated that the deer was harvested on the Red Pheasant reserve over bait. Once signed, the applicant swears that the information on the application is true. Prior to leaving back home, the men tipped Gerald Meechance $400 and gave a couple hundred bucks or so to Steven Pritchard and Neal Meechance for their efforts as a tip. It was not until about a year later that a Wisconsin game warden contacted them explaining the situation that made them understand that the deer that they had harvested was taken illegally.

There really was not that much of a defense. Steven Pritchard stated that he was not actually a guide, but rather a hired man who just drove the hunters around and opened gates where needed. Gerald Meechance, on the other hand, testified under oath that he was not present for any of this hunt as he was at a funeral in Alberta. The Crown argued that this was not possible as there was testimony that Gerald Meechance was present during the hunt and was with the hunter at the North Battleford field office when the export permit was issued and his signature was on that document.

In many cases after a trial, a judge will take some time and reserve his decision, taking into consideration all the evidence that he has heard. This did not happen in this instance, and the judge made his decision soon after hearing all of the evidence. The provincial court judge said
that he simply did not believe what Gerald Meechance was saying. He also did not believe Neal Meechance in his story that Gerald Meechance was not there. Although Steven Pritchard claimed that he was only hired to drive the truck, the judgefound him to be participating in the hunt as a guide. The judge found the three men guilty of the following charges. Gerald Meechance was found guilty of:
●Unlawfully act as guide
●Unlawfully aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the contravention of a provision of The Wildlife Act, 1998
●Unlawfully providing false information
●Unlawfully falsifying an application for an export permit
●Unlawfully acting as an outfitter

Gerald Meechance was fined a total of $33,800.

Neal Meechance was found guilty of:
●Unlawfully acting as guide
●Unlawfully aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the contravention of a provision of The Wildlife Act, 1998
●Unlawfully providing false information

Neal Meechance was fined a total of $15,820.

Steve Pritchard was found guilty of:
●Unlawfully acting as guide
●Unlawfully aiding, abetting, counselling or procuring the contravention of a provision of The Wildlife Act 1998
●Unlawfully providing false information

Steven Pritchard was fined a total of $10,920.

In addition to the $71,440 in fines, Gerald Meechance, Neal Meechance, and Steven Pritchard were also issued a fiveyear court order with the same conditions as Charles Meechance, plus the following condition:
●Not be in any vehicle in which there is an un-encased firearm except on the lands of a First Nation in the Province of Saskatchewan or in the company of another treaty person hunting for subsistence.

After the trial, Gerald Meechance was arrested on the recommendation of Crown Prosecutor, and now faces perjury charges.



YUKON
All too often, poachers slip under the watchful eyes of the men and women sworn to apprehend them. They may go years or even a lifetime without getting caught, but more often than not, eventually karma has a way of tipping the scales in the favour of justice. This is one of those cases.

In 2014, Yukon conservation officers began receiving information about a man whom they were advised they should be watching as a result of potential wildlife violations. The details provided to the officers were vague and there was not enough information to identify the man, let alone build a case on any offences he had allegedly committed. Nevertheless, an investigation was initiated and eventually, in the fall of 2015, with the help of
more information from the public, enough evidence was collected to see Jonathon Ensor charged and brought up before the Yukon courts.

On October 2, 2015, Yukon conservation officers executed a search warrant on a residence near Whitehorse. As a part of the search, conservation officers located and seized several firearms, assorted ammunition, electronic equipment, and the carcasses, meat, and body parts of various big and small game animals. As a result of the ensuing investigation and evidence uncovered during and after the execution of the search warrant, Jonathan Ensor was charged with 22 counts under the Wildlife Act, the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA), and the Criminal Code of Canada. The Criminal Code charges were a result of Ensor being subject to a firearms
prohibition under the Criminal Code at the time he committed theses offences. His girlfriend was also charged with six counts under the Wildlife Act. Evidence uncovered through this investigation led to other individuals being investigated and charged under the Wildlife Act. The following are the accounts of some of Ensor’s unlawful hunting trips.


Bison
On September 12, 2015, Ensor went hunting for bison outside of Haines Junction, Yukon with his girlfriend (Ms. P). The pair drove a vehicle approximately 15 km down the Cultus Bay Road, off of the Alaska Highway (12 km outside of the hunting corridor where bison hunting was permitted). Ms. P held a valid Yukon hunting licence and permits to hunt wood bison and small game, however, she had minimal hunting experience and this was her first big game hunting licence. Ensor did not have a hunting licence or a permit but had extensive experience “hunting,” field dressing animals, and operating firearms.

Ensor was teaching Ms. P about handling guns and was leading this hunt. They had a copy of the Yukon hunting regulations and both were aware of the hunting corridor and knew they had driven beyond the corridor boundary when they spotted a bison and shot it. Ensor maintained that during the hunt he was carrying a .300 Win Mag rifle. He further claimed that Ms. P shot the bison twice with a .458 caliber rifle and that he shot it once in the back of the head with the .300 Win Mag. Examination of the hide by conservation officers after its seizure found two holes in the shoulder matching a .300 caliber bullet and one matching a .458 calibre rifle. In addition, officers located an entry wound in the back of the head matching a .458 calibre rifle. This last finding was important because in his first statement to officers, Ensor denied having shot the bison.

Ensor then drove the vehicle up to the bison in an area where the Wildlife Regulations prohibited the use of a vehicle and loaded the bison into the truck. The pair then returned to Ensor’s residence in Whitehorse and hung the bison in his shop. Ms. P cancelled her bison seal and attached it to the bison knowing that the hunt was illegal and outside the permitted area for bison. Given the fact that Ensor had hunted illegally, the pair made a
conscious decision not to report the kill to conservation officers as required under her permit. Also on this hunt, Ms. P had shot several grouse with a .22 calibre rifle which were also brought back whole to Ensor’s residence. Neither of the two had time to attend to the grouse to field dress them so they were eventually wasted. Ensor butchered the bison and Ms. P returned to her residence.

Four days prior to shooting the bison, Ensor had illegally shot an elk which was also hanging in his shop. Having to first complete butchering the elk delayed Ensor from properly caring for the bison meat. Over the next few weeks, Ensor progressively butchered and packaged parts of the bison but made no significant progress and the remaining meat began to spoil. Neither Ms. P nor Ensor were willing to pay a butcher for fear of being
reported and sought friends instead who would do it quietly.

During the investigation of this hunt, Ms. P and Ensor both gave statements that they had parked their truck not far off the highway and walked a short distance before seeing the bison, suggesting that the hunt was within the hunting corridor. Due to this erroneous information, conservation officers were initially unable to locate the kill site. Officers had access to metadata extracted from photos taken with Ensor’s phone which provided GPS coordinates, leading officers to the bison kill site. This location was well outside the corridor and beyond where bison hunting was permitted. The hide, meat, and parts of the bison carcass, as well as the wasted grouse carcasses, were found at Ensor’s residence upon execution of the search warrant.


Elk
On September 8, 2015, Ensor drove his cube van to an area west of Whitehorse. He slept in his van and, in the morning near where he parked, saw
and shot a cow elk with a .300 Win Mag. rifle. Ensor shot the elk in an area where no licences are issued for hunting elk. Ensor loaded the animal
into his van, returned to his residence, and hung it in his shop where he proceeded to butcher and freeze it. Ensor was not authorized to hunt elk in the Yukon and admitted that he was aware of this when he went hunting. The hide, meat, and parts of the elk carcass were found at Ensor’s residence upon execution of the October 2, 2015 search warrant.

Mule Deer
On August 31, 2015, Ensor went hunting with a friend down the Annie Lake Road outside of Whitehorse. The hunt was unsuccessful and Ensor dropped his friend off back at his residence between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Ensor then returned to Annie Lake Road alone. While driving, he spotted a deer not far off the road. He exited his vehicle and shot the deer using full metal jacket service ammunition. The use of full metal jacket ammunition is prohibited under the Wildlife Act because it is considered to be a less humane way of hunting. Full metal jacket ammunition is designed so that it does not expand and transfer its kinetic energy to the target in the same way that soft pointed bullets do. Rather, full metal jacket ammunition travels straight through a target, creating much smaller wound channels than expanding bullets, resulting in a greater risk of wounding loss.

Ensor was aware that full metal jacket ammunition was not permitted for hunting and that hunting within 800 m of the Annie Lake Road was prohibited. Ensor was also aware that hunting is not permitted one hour after sunset which was at 8:07 p.m. on this date. Nonetheless, Ensor shot the deer in the dark sometime between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 p.m. even though he stated that he had shot the deer between 7:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Ensor eventually confessed to the actual time and location in his second statement. Ensor had no hunting licence or permit to hunt deer. The hide and parts of the carcass from this deer were found at Ensor’s residence upon execution of the October 2, 2015 search warrant. During the search, an additional two other deer hides were found at Ensor’s residence, which he claimed were shot by a friend in 2014 and that he had butchered the deer and saved the hides. Evidence was later found showing Ensor had actually shot those two deer.


Caribou
In the fall of 2014, Ensor and a friend went hunting in an area of British Columbia commonly referred to as “Paddy Pass,” situated between the border of Yukon and Alaska. While driving in the mountains, the pair observed a male caribou. Ensor shot the caribou twice with a .300 Win Mag. rifle and then transported the whole animal back to his residence in Whitehorse where he butchered it, saving the antlers. Ensor maintains that he shot the caribou for his hunting partner, a First Nations beneficiary, who had subsistence harvesting rights in the area. Ensor apparently believed that that he could hunt so long as she was present. Ensor did not possess any hunting authorization issued under British Columbia law nor did he have a permit to transport the caribou from British Columbia to Yukon. The hide, antlers, and some meat from this caribou were found at Ensor’s residence upon execution of the search warrant.

Dall’s Sheep
Again in the fall of 2014, on another trip to the “Paddy Pass” area in British Columbia with the same companion, Ensor located and shot a male and a female Dall’s sheep. Ensor claimed to have left the horns from both sheep on the mountain before transporting their carcasses back to his residence in Whitehorse. Ensor maintains that he shot the sheep for his huntingpartner at her request. Dall’s sheep are a species of mountain sheep which persons are prohibited to hunt in British Columbia without the necessary licences.

In British Columbia, a non-resident hunter wishing to hunt sheep must be accompanied by a registered guide outfitter. Ensor did not possess any hunting authorization issued under British Columbia law nor did he have a permit to transport the sheep from British Columbia to Yukon. In his first statement to investigating officers, Ensor claimed that the sheep were shot by his companion and that he was not involved in the hunt. He admitted
in a second statement that he had lied to officers and subsequently admitted to shooting both sheep. During the execution of the search warrant, hides from both sheep were located in his freezer. Several packages of wrapped sheep meat were found discarded in the garbage and wasted, having been removed from the freezer to make room for the bison he was in the process of butchering.

Other wildlife
Additional evidence recovered from Ensor’s phone revealed that between August 23 and 24, 2015, he went hunting with a friend and shot two
grouse without a small game hunting licence. A small game hunting licence allows the holder to hunt grouse and hares. While executing the search warrant, conservation officers discovered several rabbits and one grouse in Ensor’s freezer which he admitted to shooting with a friend in 2014. Ensor did not have a small game licence to hunt in the Yukon at any time.

Conservation officers also discovered a set of eagle wings and a set of sheep horns in Ensor’s residence during the execution of the search warrant. Ensor maintains that he removed the wings from a dead eagle that he found several years ago. Ensor did not obtain a permit to possess the eagle wings nor the sheep horns, which are both required by law.

       

Territorial Court
Ensor agreed that he has extensive hunting experience although no licence history was ever found in jurisdictions where he has resided. He admitted that he was fully aware of the legal requirements to possess a valid hunting licence at the time the offences were committed and that he made conscious efforts to evade detection. Ensor also admitted that he has hunted for other big game animals in the Yukon without success, including moose in 2015. On January 4, 2016, Jonathan Ensor entered guilty pleas to 16 of the 22 charges against him. The offences for which he was convicted included hunting while not permitted, wasting meat, using a vehicle off of a designated road, using unlawful ammunition, hunting during restricted hours, unlawfully possessing of wildlife, and unlawfully transporting wildlife.

On January 20, 2017, in his sentencing decision, the Honourable Judge Cozens noted that Ensor is an experienced hunter who was well aware of the legal requirements to hunt, knew that he was breaking the law, and took conscious steps to avoid detection. He noted that Ensor was not in need of meat when he was committing these offences and that he continued to hunt illegally when he was already in possession of meat that was going to waste because he was not processing it properly. He noted that there was a measure of planning and deliberation in Ensor’s actions so as to conceal what he was doing and to include others in his illegal activities.

For the Wildlife Act and Regulations offences in this matter, Crown Counsel sought a sentence of six months in custody and opposed the idea of Ensor serving this time conditionally in the community. Furthermore, Crown submitted that Ensor pay $15,000 to the Turn In Poachers & Polluters
fund plus the $4,500 surcharge for the WAPPRIITA offences and that he should receive a 20-year hunting prohibition.

Ensor asked the Court not to impose a six-month jail sentence, saying he would rather pay a higher fine of $45,000 and receive a lifetime hunting ban. He pleaded with the court that if he were sentenced to incarceration that he be allowed to serve such a sentence in the community.

In consideration of the evidence and testimony in this case, the Honourable Judge Cozens acknowledged that the difficulties associated with policing such a large area as the Yukon may encourage some people to hunt illegally and assume a relatively low risk of being caught. For that reason, he
asserted that wildlife offences need to have a deterrent effect and hunters who break wildlife laws need to know that, if caught, they will lose their privilege to hunt and face significant fines and, in some cases, jail sentences. In Ensor’s case, society’s condemnation of his actions needed to be reflected through the sentence imposed upon him.

Judge Cozens sentenced Ensor to a six-month conditional sentence to be served in the community or house arrest under strict conditions. In addition, he was ordered to pay $10,000 to the Conservation Fund for the Wildlife Act and Regulations offences and $1 plus $10,000 to the Turn in Poachers & Polluters Fund for the WAPPRIITA offences.

Ensor was prohibited from obtaining a hunting licence and from hunting or accompanying anyone for the purposes of hunting in the Yukon for 20 years. All items seized were ordered forfeited. Ensor was also convicted under the Criminal Code of Canada for breach of a courtorder prohibiting him from possessing firearms.

On August 26, 2016, Ms. P entered guilty pleas to four of the six charges against her, which included hunting while not permitted, wasting meat, and failing to complete a mandatory kill report. She was given a three-year hunting prohibition and a $5,000 fine payable to the Turn in Poachers & Polluters fund. In addition, she is required to successfully complete the Hunter Education and Ethics Development course.

The Honourable Judge Cozens stated that, in this case, it was only through anonymous information provided by the Yukon public that search warrants were obtained which led to Ensor being charged with these offences. He went on to say that, in this regard, the enforcement of wildlife legislation in the Yukon relies heavily upon members of the Yukon public providing information when they are aware of offences being committed. “This is a responsibility that lies with all Yukoners.”

That message highlights the importance of the public’s vigilance in watching over our wildlife, as well as their trust in us. Undoubtedly, there are countless more cases like this across this country, which could be solved if members of the public, who hold key information, would come forward.


Author: Aaron Koss-Young.
Aaron is a member of the
Yukon Conservation Officers Association



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