A self-described Norwegian “adventurer” has been fined $1,000 after illegally shooting a ptarmigan along the South Canol Road during a months-long stay in the Yukon earlier this year.
Tonje Blomseth was found guilty of hunting without a licence during an ex parte trial in Whitehorse the afternoon of Sept. 18 after she failed to show up to court.
Justice of the peace Sharman Morrison entered a guilty plea to the charge, a violation of the territorial Wildlife Act, on Blomseth’s behalf.
According to facts territorial Crown attorney Lee Kirkpatrick read to the court, the offence was discovered after a conservation officer found a photo Blomseth posted to social media that shows her posing with the dead bird.
The events leading up to the charge began on Sept. 10, 2017, Kirkpatrick said, when conservation officers inspected a camp Blomseth and her boyfriend, Per Eira, had set up near a lake about 150 kilometres north of Ross River. There, they found an illegally-built structure as well as litter strewn throughout the site, and ordered the couple to clean up. Conservation officers did a follow-up inspection of the camp a few weeks later but found that litter was still a problem.
On March 18, conservation officers contacted Blomseth and Eira in Ross River and told them that the season for hunting ptarmigan had closed three days earlier. However, in mid-April, a conservation officer saw a photo on Blomseth’s Facebook that showed her with a rifle strapped to her back and holding a dead ptarmigan.
The officer recognized the background of the photo as a location on South Canol Road, Kirkpatrick said, and went to inspect the site, where he found ptarmigan feathers, blood and a spent shot from a .22-calibre rifle.
On April 18, conservation officers met Blomseth at the Whitehorse airport, where they interviewed her. Kirkpatrick said that Blomseth initially denied having killed a ptarmigan and told conservation officers that she hadn’t seen any wildlife or shot anything along the South Canol Road.
When conservation officers showed her the photo, Blomseth then said she wasn’t sure where she’d shot the bird before admitting that it was along the South Canol Road. She also told them that the ptarmigan “was just lunch really, it wasn’t anything more than that,” and that she had come across the bird with her dog team and had thought, “what the hell.”
Blomseth’s boyfriend, Eira, later told conservation officers she had shot the ptarmigan on April 3.
Kirkpatrick said that Blomseth showed a “complete lack of respect for the Yukon’s wildlife laws” as well as a lack of honesty by lying to conservation officers and by shooting a ptarmigan even though she knew that she wasn’t supposed to.
Morrison agreed and approved Kirkpatrick’s suggested sentence of a $1,000 fine as well as the forfeiture of Blomseth’s rifle, case and padlock.
Blomseth has four months to pay the fine.
The maximum penalty for a first-time violation of the Wildlife Act is a $50,000 fine, no more than one year in prison, or both.
The Crown withdrew a second charge against Blomseth of possessing illegally-killed wildlife, and two charges against Eira after determining he had no role in killing the ptarmigan.
According to court records, Eira pleaded guilty earlier this year to illegally hunting a beaver. Blomseth is also currently facing at least two other charges related to her trip to the Yukon, including improperly discarding litter, a violation of the Environment Act, and harvesting forest resources without a permit, a violation of the Forest Resources Act.
Blomseth has posted extensively on social media about her trip to the Yukon, which she describes as a “10-month long expedition” on her Instagram account.
Her Instagram account has a story entitled “Canada 17-18,” of which one of the images says that her “Canada stay” lasted from June 17, 2017 to April 18. In a Facebook post dated April 10, Blomseth wrote, in Norwegian, that she is writing a book about her and Eira’s experience in the Yukon, which included building a log cabin and living in it before being “forced” to move into a tent and hunting and fishing to feed themselves.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org