An American man, who has already been fined thousands of dollars for illegal hunting activities south of the border, has now also been sentenced in Yukon Territorial Court.
Ronald Martin, 73, was fined $20,000 in territorial court last week for violations of both Yukon and federal law.
The Haines man admitted to twice hunting illegally in the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary, once in 2009 when he took a Utah man on a hunting trip and allowed him to kill a moose.
Only Yukon First Nation hunters have subsistence harvesting rights in the Kluane Wildlife Sanctuary. If they are not a Kluane First Nation citizen hunters need written permission from the First Nation.
Martin is a Kluane First Nation citizen but the American man he was guiding was not.
The was mounted by a local taxidermist then shipped to Alaska and then to Washington were the other hunter picked it up.
It was only after Canadian authorities and their American counterparts teamed up for a cross-boarder investigation known as Operation Bruin that the truth came to light, said Ryan Hennings, manager of enforcement and compliance for Environment Yukon.
In the case of the second kill, a 2011 sheep hunt, Martin was hunting sheep with his grandson.
It was Martin who took the shot and killed the ram, but when he reported the kill he lied about where the animal had been hunted, Hennings said.
On top of that, his grandson did not have the authority to hunt in the area.
Along with the Yukon charges, Martin admitted to crimes under the federal Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act.
Martin pleaded guilty to the illegal possession of a grizzly bear hide, two black bear hides and three wolverine hides, all of which had been imported or transported illegally, according to Environment Canada.
Under the law, you can’t import an animal that was killed illegally somewhere else or transport a kill without the required paperwork.
Martin was the head guide of a “pretty large, and pretty organized trophy smuggling ring,” said Sheldon Jordan, director general of wildlife enforcement for Environment Canada.
In total 15 people, including hunters from Alaska, B.C., Alberta and Utah, were charged thanks to Operation Bruin, which has gone on for three years and includes Environment Canada, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Wildlife Troopers, Alberta Fish and Wildlife, and Environment Yukon.
Some have pleaded guilty already, while others are still making their way through the courts in their various jurisdictions.
In some cases the hunters are alleged to have taken part in illegal hunts, and in others it was a matter of not filling out the proper paperwork, Jordan said.
Martin has been hunting for many years, Hennings said.
“We’ve suspected illegal activities may have been occurring, but never have been able to prove it,” he said.
It wasn’t until Operation Bruin, and work done on both sides of the border, that investigators were able to get enough evidence, he said.
While relationships between investigators in both countries are running smoothly, the border is making it more difficult for Yukon conservation officers to get their hands on the ram Martin killed in 2011.
He gave it to the Haines Bald Eagle Foundation Museum. Now that it is outside of Canada and in the hands of a third party, that makes things more difficult, Hennings said.
Canadian authorities have been working with the American state troopers to try and get it voluntarily returned, but so far the museum has not co-operated, he said.
Now that an official order of forfeiture has been issued from the Canadian court, that will hopefully make things easier, he said.
On top of the money, Martin also faces decade-long bans on possessing a weapon, accompanying anyone who is hunting in Yukon, and from exporting from Yukon any wildlife or parts of wildlife. There is a condition allowing him to hunt with a bow for subsistence beginning in 2020.
In October 2013, Martin was sentenced in Juneau’s federal court on five charges involving the illegal killing of wildlife, false labelling, and illegal importation of wildlife.
According to the U.S. states attorney in Alaska at the time, Martin admitted to multiple illegal hunts, falsification of numerous documents related to those illegal hunts and the importation of illegal wildlife from Canada into the U.S.
He was ordered to pay a $40,000 fine and was placed on probation for four years. During that time he cannot hunt in the U.S. and is banned from hunting anywhere in the world for two years.
Another $10,000 fine was laid in Alaska state court on one count of guiding clients for brown bear over bait and one count of guiding clients at an unregistered bear bait site.
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