Alberta couple fined $100K over poaching convictions
An Alberta couple has been handed $100,000 in fines after pleading guilty to numerous convictions in one of the largest illegal hunting investigations ever carried out in the province.
Former hunting guide Chris Brophy and his partner Michelle Hazeloh originally faced a whopping 131 charges under the provincial Wildlife Act related to poaching game-farm deer out of season and then abandoning the bodies. But 110 of the charges were dropped after the couple agreed Tuesday to plead guilty to 21 of the offences.
Court heard the couple would typically slay deer out of season and at night, removing the head and leaving the rest of the animal behind.
In the end, they were found guilty of charges that included: hunting with prohibited firearms; firing from a motor vehicle; hunting on a domestic game farm; hunting without licenses; and illegally abandoning edible meat.
In addition to the $100,000 fine, Brophy and Hazeloh must give up their Hummer, which prosecutors said they used to carry out their crimes. The couple is also banned from hunting for 25 years.
"On the recreational side, (the sentence) is probably one of the highest," Fish and Wildlife officer Quentin Isley told CTV Edmonton. "In Alberta's history, anyways."
Investigators first became suspicious after receiving tips through Alberta's "Report a Poacher" program about strange activity across a wide swath of the province in 2010 and 2011.
An extensive investigation involving bait deer, DNA testing and even GPS trackers attached to the couple's vehicle revealed the illegal poaching.
"We had forensics, we had assistance from the Edmonton city police, the RCMP," Isley said. "It was a significant amount of effort from the Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch."
The Crown also argued the couple should have a GPS tracker installed in their vehicles for the next five to 10 years, but the judge declined, saying he didn't think the couple would re-offend.
"If they do come back, they'll likely face jail time," he warned.
Todd Zimmerline, of the Alberta Conservation Association, said he hopes the case leads to an increase in calls to the Report a Poacher tip line.
"It's vital that the general public understand the difference between a hunter and a poacher," he said.
With a report from CTV Edmonton's Bill Fortier