Logger loses appeal for disturbing bear den

A Yukon Supreme Court judge has dismissed the appeal of a man who dumped water onto a sleeping bear. Romeo Leduc appealed the $2,000 fine that he was ordered to pay last year for disturbing a den.

A Yukon Supreme Court judge has dismissed the appeal of a man who dumped water onto a sleeping bear.

Romeo Leduc appealed the $2,000 fine that he was ordered to pay last year for disturbing a den.

Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources discovered the bear den on Leduc’s woodlot near Haines Junction in November 2013.

He was originally banned from logging within a 300-metre radius of the den, “which caused him to become very frustrated,” Justice Leigh Gower wrote in his decision.

Near the end of February that radius was reduced to 100 metres, but it took the government 30 days to tell Leduc. That only added to his frustration, the judge said.

The original territorial court judge also criticized the government for taking so long.

In April 15, 2014, Leduc and a neighbour, Stephen Dyck, went to the den together.

The day before, Leduc had obtained a hunting licence and a bear seal.

“He indicated that he wanted to wake the bear up with the water and had arranged for Mr. Dyck to be present with his 12-gauge shotgun in case the bear attacked them,” Gower wrote.

“After Mr. Leduc poured the water down the den, a black bear came out in a groggy condition.

A few minutes later, the bear came towards Mr. Dyck, who fired a round from his shotgun into the ground in front of the bear.

“That caused the bear to climb up a poplar tree. After observing the bear in the tree for about a further 20 minutes, the two men left the area.

The decision says Leduc poured about 40 litres of water into the den.

When the case went to trial in November last year, Leduc didn’t show up. That decision appears to not have helped his case.

“Although his reasons for not doing so were not specified on the record at the trial, it is telling that Mr. Leduc stated in his notice of appeal that he did not attend the trial, as he felt the charge was ‘totally ridiculous’ since he was ‘legally entitled’ to pour water down the bear’s den, as he admits he did,” Gower wrote.

“He further stated during the appeal hearing: “I don’t deny what happened there.”

Leduc did show up for the appeal. He was trying to get the judge to hear new evidence, but Gower said no.

The judge pointed out that Leduc could have chosen to come to the first trial and try and introduce this evidence, but he didn’t.

Gower said he didn’t have a problem with the prosecutor not playing a video statement of what Leduc told conservation officers and instead calling the officer to testify. That’s entirely within a prosecutor’s discretion, he said.

“The totality of the circumstances here satisfy me that Mr. Leduc’s conduct in intentionally failing to attend his trial constitutes a complete absence of due diligence,” Gower said.

Courts may tolerate some lack of diligence, he said. “However, in this case there was no diligence at all.”

There’s one section of the Yukon Wildlife Act that was worth looking at for the appeal, the judge said.

That’s the section that creates a possible defence for someone who has damaged or interfered with an animal den, if the accused can establish that the damage or interference was done “in the course of” clearing or working the land for construction, agricultural use or “any similar purpose.”

That excuse doesn’t apply in this case, Gower ruled. That part of the act is meant for people who cause damage accidentally or necessarily “in the course of” legitimate activity.

“Further, there is no evidence on the record that Mr. Leduc was legitimately engaged in the clearing or working of land for forestry purposes at the time that he interfered with the bear den, the judge said.

The $2,000 fine stands, Gower said. So does the requirement that Leduc take a hunter education course before he can get a hunting licence.

When reached at home, Leduc said he was disappointed in the decision. He said he had posted a link to all the documents he tried to give the court on his Facebook page.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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