A Yukon territorial court judge will decide whether to send a Yukon poacher to jail for illegally hunting seven different animal species in the territory.
Jonathan Ensor, 34, was convicted Jan. 4 after pleading guilty to 16 violations of the Yukon’s Wildlife Act and two violations of its interprovincial rules.
An anonymous tip led conservation officers to search Ensor’s house on Oct. 2, 2015, according to an agreed statement of facts filed in court.
They found carcasses of bison, deer and elk, plus two deer hides, caribou antlers, two Dall sheep hides, four wasted grouse, six rabbits, one frozen grouse, a set of eagle feathers and a pair of sheep horns.
Ensor didn’t have a licence to hunt any of the animals and no permit to possess the feathers and horns.
On Jan. 10 Crown prosecutor Megan Seiling asked judge Michael Cozens to sentence Ensor to six months in jail. The Crown also sought a $15,000 fine and a 20-year hunting ban.
Ensor sought a conditional sentence, which would allow him to serve his sentence in the community, in exchange for a $45,000 fine and a lifelong hunting ban.
Conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young testified for the Crown that permits for some of the animals Ensor killed are highly sought after.
For some species, such as deer, there are only 10 permits available per year through a lottery system. There are also designated areas where hunting is prohibited — something Ensor knew but wilfully ignored.
Yukon government ungulate biologist Sophie Czetwertynski testified the territory’s herds are naturally self-regulated by predators and natural mortality.
That means the harvest rate — the amount of animals that can be hunted while keeping the herds healthy — is low, between zero and four per cent of the total population.
Unreported kills and poaching will affect the harvest rate scientists calculate, she said, and eliminate hunting opportunities.
Ensor was also convicted of hunting a deer at night, using full metal jacket ammunition to hunt animals, wasting meat, using a vehicle for hunting, and possessing wildlife killed in another jurisdiction.
He admitted to killing a caribou in Paddy Pass, the area between the B.C. and Alaska borders, in the fall of 2014.
After he killed a bison near Haines Junction in September 2015, Ensor decided to butcher the animal himself because he was concerned a butcher would report him to conservation officers.
But mould started developing on the bison, resulting in at least 30 kilograms of meat going in the trash.
That’s on top of the four grouse conservation officers found in a garbage can on Ensor’s property.
In her sentencing submissions, Seiling told the court there were no legal precedents with similar facts to this case because of its scope.
But Yukon courts have handed out small jail sentences for severe violations of the Wildlife Act, she said.
There are only 13 conservation officers patrolling the Yukon, making enforcement difficult.
Seiling emphasized the need to send a message to the public to deter poaching, which derails the work scientists do to manage herds and affects hunters’ rights.
There were “too many offences of too serious of a nature,” she said.
She also opposed the conditional sentence because Ensor was under a court order prohibiting him from using a weapon when he hunted.
Ensor’s only explanation was that he hunted for subsistence.
But when judge Cozens asked him how he thought he could get away with it, Ensor simply said he “wasn’t thinking.”
Ensor works in construction. He told the court that a jail sentence would make his employer “suffer” because projects couldn’t continue without him.
He also said a jail sentence would halt his plans to expand his residence into a homestead where he plans to grow vegetables, and raise chickens, and would impact his family.
Because Ensor chose to represent himself, Cozens cautioned him about his request to replace six months of jail time with an extra $30,000 in fines, which would place Ensor under financial burden for a longer time.
A six month jail sentence would likely mean Ensor would be out of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre after four months served.
Cozens will give his sentencing decision Jan. 20.
Contact Pierre Chauvin at firstname.lastname@example.org