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Watson Lake doctor charged with wasting meat

Watson Lake doctor Said Secerbegovic, is in court on charges of wasting meat after abandoning more than 30 pounds of “edible” sheep meat…

Watson Lake doctor Said Secerbegovic, is in court on charges of wasting meat after abandoning more than 30 pounds of “edible” sheep meat near Dog Lake in September 2005.

The 62-year-old Secerbegovic, or “Dr. Si” as he is known in Watson Lake, has been charged under the Yukon Wildlife Act.

The affair began with a tip to conservation officers about illegal hunting near Dog Lake. The tip came from an outfitting guide.

The officers met Secerbegovic when he returned to Whitehorse with the kill. Secerbegovic then drew a map that led officers to the remnants of the sheep carcass.

There, conservation officers found 31 pounds of meat that was deemed “reasonably fit for human consumption.”

How did they know?

They ate it.

In mid-October 2005, two officers fried some of the meat up and ate it.

“It was fine,” former Yukon conservation officer Trevor Castagner told the court on Tuesday morning.

Secerbegovic’s charge stems from a hunting trip he took on Sunday, September 25, 2005, with two other men — one was an old friend, and the other was a Slovenian man visiting the territory from British Columbia whom he knew only as “Duchone,” Secerbegovic testified on Tuesday afternoon.

The three were flown near Dog Lake early that morning and the pilot was to pick them up on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on the pilot’s schedule, Secerbegovic told the court.

Before even setting up camp, they went to explore the area, pick berries and lie in the sun.

“We were looking to see what was about, what the terrain was like and where things were,” he said.

Secerbegovic took a small pack with some food and his hunting rifle, “just in case; it was protection,” he told the court.

“I took a hunting rifle; I always take a hunting rifle when I’m in the bush.”

At approximately 6 p.m., they spotted some large rams and Secerbegovic approached the animals to see if they “were legal” to bag, he said.

After spending about 45 minutes stalking the animal, he took a shot at a ram standing on a ridge.

The animal was pierced in the throat, it took one step and then fell over the ridge out of sight, he told the court.

Secerbegovic and his companions scaled the ridge and checked out the dead animal.

They gutted the sheep where it had fallen, then moved the rest of the carcass “10 or 15 feet” upstream to foil any predators that might have tried to claim the kill for themselves.

By that time it was getting “dusky” so the trio headed back to set up camp, said Secerbegovic.

They did not bring any of the meat back to camp with them at that point.

“We had no means of carrying it,” said Secerbegovic.

“We did not go out with the intention of shooting anything.”

The next morning they returned to the kill site early.

Secerbegovic carried a pack he estimated could accommodate 300 pounds of goods, but the heaviest he’d ever had it “was 170 to 180 pounds,” he said.

The trio headed out on a two-and-a-half hour journey back to the kill site, but by the time they arrived Secerbegovic’s companion, Duchone, looked ill, said Secerbegovic, who described Duchone as “completely out of shape.”

“Duchone looked grey to me; the only time I saw people looking that grey they were having a heart attack,” he said.

Secerbegovic told Duchone to sit down and medicated him with two baby Aspirin.

Then he used a satellite phone to call the pilot to try and get picked up earlier, but he could not get through.

So, he began dressing the sheep.

He took everything he thought was “edible,” he told the court.

He left the parts that were “damaged, bloodshot, or looked like it would spoil on me on the way home,” he said.

“I was in a hurry.

“I had one eye on Duchone.

“I was so concerned about this guy, that I was going to have a death on my hands out there,” said Secerbegovic.

The meat Secerbegovic transported back to camp weighed in at “about 47 pounds,” he told the court.

Defence lawyer Ed Horembala questioned Secerbegovic on a rack of ribs he had cut from the sheep, but left behind.

“There was so much bruising I didn’t think they were worth bringing,” said Secerbegovic.

“Was there room in your pack for them?” asked Horembala.

“Yes,” answered Secerbegovic.

On the walk back to camp, Secerbegovic continued watching Duchone and he finally was able to contact the pilot for pick up, said Secerbegovic.

The plane arrived around 6 p.m. and flew the three men to the Schwatka Lake dock where Yukon conservation officers were waiting to inspect the kill and interview Secerbegovic.

After, Secerbegovic asked Duchone whether he wanted to go to the Whitehorse hospital, but they ended up driving to Watson Lake where, on the next day, Duchone underwent testing at Secerbegovic’s clinic.

“You have fabricated this story to explain your wasted meat,” charged Crown attorney Lee Kirkpatrick while cross-examining Secerbegovic.

Then something “unusual” happened in the courtroom.

Horembala popped out of his chair and asked to speak with Kirkpatrick privately.

“It is unusual to interrupt a cross-examination this way,” said presiding Judge Dennis Overend, who then allowed the interruption.

Horembala and Kirkpatrick filed out of the courtroom to speak privately, and then reappeared moments later.

“I’ve put you on notice,” Horembala said to Kirkpatrick, who then resumed her cross-examination.

Lawyers for the Crown and defence are slated to make their closing statements at 10 a.m. Wednesday.