An NHL player from B.C. is facing charges for hunting and killing a grizzly bear out of season and without a proper licence on the Central Coast of B.C. three years ago.
In 2013, defenceman Clayton Stoner, who was playing for the Minnesota Wild at the time, admitted to shooting a bear. Graphic photographs of the kill sparked an outcry from wildlife advocates and First Nations leaders.
Stoner had defended his actions, saying he grew up hunting on Northern Vancouver Island, and applied for and received a licence as part of the annual lottery.
But the Port McNeill native now faces five charges including:
- Two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a licence.
- Hunting without a licence.
- Hunting out of season.
- Unlawful possession of dead wildlife.
Stoner, who now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, is accused of falsely claiming to be a B.C. resident when he applied for the licence, according to Det. Sgt. Cynthia Mann with the Conservation Officer Service.
"At the time Mr. Stoner was playing for the Minnesota Wild hockey team so the question of his B.C. residence initiated an investigation," said Mann.
Stoner's next court date is set for Oct. 9.
Ban still sought
The Coastal First Nations, which is an alliance of several First Nations from B.C.'s Central and North Coast regions, said in 2013 that the kill happened in an ancient First Nations village site midway between Bella Bella and Bella Coola.
They released a video documenting the incident.
Jessie Housty, who is a councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation, said while they welcomed the charges, they would rather the province ban trophy hunting altogether.
"I think it's positive in the sense that I hope it makes trophy hunters aware that they're being policed and that they're being held to a very high standard," said Housty.
"However, it is still legal for them to do this under … law and you could just as easily read the situation as an opportunity to learn from Clayton Stoner's mistakes and keep their nose clean when they're practising their own trophy hunting.
"In that sense, it's not really a win for us."
Chris Darimont, Hakai Raincoast professor at the University of Victoria, noted that even though grizzly hunting is legal under provincial laws so long as hunters meet certain conditions, the Coastal First Nations declared its own ban on the trophy bear hunt in traditional territories in 2012.
"In my mind, real justice will come when hunters recognize that especially in this area on the coast, an indigenous law that has banned this hunt is a law that's far more just and far more appropriate this day in age," Darimont said.
Who can hunt when?
Estimates for the number of grizzly bears in B.C. range from 15,000 from provincial biologists to as few as 6,000 from conservation organization biologists.
B.C. has both spring and fall hunting seasons for grizzlies, but the specific dates vary by region.
Non-residents are required to hire a local guide, often at a cost of $25,000 or more.
Local residents can enter an annual lottery for a licence, with about 1,700 resident hunting licences issued in 2013-14.
According to the B.C. Wildlife Act, resident means a person who:
- Is a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident, whose primary residence is in B.C., and has been physically present in B.C. for the greater portion of each of six out of the 12 months immediately preceding making an application.
- Or is not a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident of Canada, but whose primary residence is in B.C., and has been physically present in B.C. for the greater portion of each of the 12 months immediately preceding the date of making an application.