The man who killed a mature grizzly bear near Pemberton in 2011 will have to pay $10,000 for the crime, a provincial court judge ruled Thursday (Oct. 3).
The penalty against Squamish's Brett Eyben, 33, consists of a $100 fine and a $9,900 donation to an as-yet-undetermined conservation fund, in addition to the forfeiture of the rifle used to shoot the bear and a 12-month hunting prohibition.
B.C. Conservation Officer Service officials were satisfied with the ruling.
“We're happy to get a conviction in that manner,” said Insp. Chris Doyle. “The courts determined that it was an adequate penalty, and I'm sure a fine of that significance will be a deterrent to others that may be considering violating the Wildlife Act.”
Because of struggling grizzly bear habitats throughout southwestern B.C., the area in which the animal was killed is off-limits to grizzly bear hunting at all times of the year. Eyben faced a maximum fine of $50,000 for the offence, but Judge Joanne Challenger meted out the smaller penalty based on similar cases.
The Coast to Cascades Grizzly Bear Initiative, a recently formed coalition of conservation groups, followed the trial and had hoped to see a stronger sentence against Eyben, including a longer prohibition from hunting.
“It would have sent a stronger message about the illegal killing of grizzly bears,” said field coordinator Johnny Mikes. “But even if there were higher fines, or even jail sentences, the bottom line is every grizzly bear in a threatened population is priceless and we can't afford to lose any of them.”
Eyben had testified it was his intention to hunt black bears when he mistakenly shot the grizzly along the Lillooet Forest Service Road in November 2011. He reported the incident two days later, which the Crown later cited as an aggravating factor in the crime because it was “not prompt” enough. Eyben pleaded guilty to the offence earlier this year.
The grizzly was considered an important and healthy alpha male in the area. The 20-year-old, 800-pound pound animal had been part of a grizzly bear study at the time. Through DNA testing it was known he had fathered cubs with at least four females.
“That bear was known to researchers as an important breeder in a population… that's considered threatened,” Doyle said. “It was harvested in what's been identified as a linkage corridor between two grizzly bear recovery areas.”
Crown counsel in the case was seeking a $12,000 fine and a three-year hunting prohibition, in addition to the firearm seizure.