Whitehorse man fined over illegal wolf hunt

A Whitehorse man convicted of violating the Wildlife Act when he shot two wolves in 2013 was fined $6,500 Monday. Clayton Thomas, 35, also received a two-year Yukon hunting ban.

A Whitehorse man convicted of violating the Wildlife Act when he shot two wolves in 2013 was fined $6,500 Monday.

Clayton Thomas, 35, also received a two-year Yukon hunting ban.

Thomas told territorial court judge Donald Luther he plans to appeal the conviction. He continues to insist he did nothing wrong in 2013 when he killed two wolves on separate occasions in the Mount Sima area.

Thomas has always said he killed the animals to protect his family and neighbours.

“To have a wolf in my neighbourhood where my wife and her friends and my kids walk, I can’t take that chance,” he told the judge Monday.

During trial he argued that his Tahltan heritage gives him the right to hunt around Whitehorse.

His representative, a First Nation member named Kusta, tried to show that it was common for young men to travel and hunt outside the Tahltan territory in northwestern British Columbia as a rite of passage.

But the judge wasn’t convinced. In December Luther convicted Thomas of hunting wolves without permission and inappropriate use of a firearm. He was also convicted of trafficking in wildlife because he tried to have a friend claim the wolves were caught on a Yukon trapline so they could be sealed. That plan fell through.

Last year Luther ruled that aboriginal hunting rights are site-specific. Assigning hunting rights based on where people travelled during rites of passage would “be inviting chaos in the overall scheme of aboriginal rights,” he said.

At Monday’s sentencing hearing the Crown was asking for a fine of between $9,000 and $10,000.

Yukon conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young testified staff don’t kill animals in a residential area unless they are considered an imminent threat.

In this case, one dog had been killed by a wolf in the Mount Sima area. But that dog had been left out at night to wander, Koss-Young said. That means the wolf would likely have seen the dog as ordinary prey.

Thomas was actually a bigger threat to the community when he shot his rifles, argued prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick.

According to Kirkpatrick, there were at least 50 residential lots within a kilometre when Thomas fired.

It was dark at the time and he was using illegal full metal jacket bullets as ammunition. Compared to other types of ammunition these bullets are more likely to travel through an animal and hit something on the other side, she said. They are also considered a less humane way of hunting.

One bullet was found on a hillside. Behind that hill was a house.

Thomas insists the area was safe before he fired.

Kirkpatrick said Thomas’s claim of self-defence “rings hollow.” He did not report any concerns about the animals to conservation officers and neither of the animals were posing any threat at the time he decided to kill them, she said.

The $6,500 fine will be paid to the Yukon’s Turn in Poachers and Polluters fund.

Thomas’s hunting ban only applies to the Yukon and makes an exception for subsistence hunting.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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