Five Sylvan Lake men were found guilty late last week after illegally hunting, killing and leaving four trophy big horn rams to spoil following aninvestigation which began in 2013.
Timothy Yach, Anthony Yach, Tyler Yach, Mathew Lecerf and Seth Gould all pleaded guilty in Hinton Provincial Court to the offences. They werefined a total of $24,500 and had their hunting licenses suspended for a year.
Adam Jalbert, a fish and wildlife officer for the Athabasca District where the poaching took place, explained he was the first officer on scene in2013 following the five Sylvan Lakers needless slaughter of the rams.
Jalbert explained the initial call came in from an anonymous complaint stating there were trespassers hunting in the boundaries of a reclaimedmine site that has been closed to hunting and entering for the past 30 years.
“The report initially came to me from a fellow officer who was also working in the area. His duties at the time prevented him from respondingright away, so I responded to the call,” remembers Jalbert. “I did not witness the scene of the offence where the dead rams were located. Iencountered the five young men on the road while they were still in the area. My initial investigation took place roadside, where the individualswere questioned about the case.
“Initially the men did not provide any information relating to the unlawful killing of the rams. They only provided misleading information, but inthe end they did cooperate and were truthful to officers.”
Jalbert explained bighorn sheep are a highly prized animal in North America among both the hunting and conservation communities, but addedhe could not speculate as to why the poachers would leave the animals to spoil after they killed them and left the bodies in tact withoutremoving the heads or horns.
The Cadomin area, where the poaching took place, is world renowned not only to sheep hunting enthusiasts, but to wildlife and conservationenthusiasts alike he explained. He added up until this past year when a large ram from Southern Alberta was discovered, the Cadomin area wasknown to have produced the largest bighorn sheep in the world.
Jalbert stated there is a very substantial population of bighorn sheep in the area and the fact that they have been protected from hunting for thepast 30 years has caused them to become more tolerant of human presence. He said it is not uncommon to drive through the area and witnesssometimes up to a few hundred bighorn sheep nearby. Occasionally, these sheep are as close as a few metres from the highway, providing foran excellent opportunity to view them.
During the investigation Jalbert took DNA samples from the young men who were accused. These samples were later submitted to the Fish andWildlife Forensic Lab in Edmonton, AB and results proved that some of the samples taken were consistent with the DNA of a Bighorn Sheep.
“Armed with this new crucial piece of evidence, myself and another officer obtained further information from the young men, which revealedthey had killed four bighorn rams and abandoned all four of them where they were killed,” said Jalbert. “As a Fish and Wildlife Officer, I do mybest to ensure that those who commit wildlife crimes get their day in court. In this instance, I hope that the young men involved have learnedsomething throughout the process and that they make the right choice to obey the laws as they engage in any future recreational pursuits.”
Of the total $24,500 fine, $7,500 will go to the Alberta Fish and Wildlife Forensic Lab and $6,000 will go to the provincial aerial ungulate surveyprogram – the primary method used to determine the population status and trends for ungulates in Alberta, with ungulates being most animalswith hooves.
The Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Branch wants to thank the public for their support in helping to apprehend resource violators. Anyone withinformation relating to resource crimes can call the Report-A-Poacher hotline at 1-800-642-3800. Callers may remain completely anonymous.