Three Saskatchewan men charged after a YouTube video showed ducklings being shot illegally were handed hefty fines Monday, as well as a three-year ban on acquiring hunting licences.
In Saskatoon provincial court, David Fraser, 30, James Fraser, 23, and Jeremy Rowlands of Cudworth, Sask., pleaded guilty to a total of 15 counts of violating federal and provincial wildlife protection laws.
The judge imposed fines and licence bans on all three men: the Fraser brothers must pay $5,000 each and Rowlands must pay $6,000.
"At the time that we did what we did we didn't know it was a crime," David Fraser told reporters after the court proceedings. "We had no idea that bullets ricocheted off water. And we made every effort at the time to make sure that there was nothing within eye view on the horizon of anywhere that we shot."
Two rifles that had been seized in the investigation were ordered forfeited to the Crown.
'We thought we were just having fun. Really immature, stupid fun.' —David Fraser, on illegal shooting of wildlife
Charges were laid on the weekend after a national outcry over a four-minute video that appeared on the YouTube website.
The video, which has been viewed more than 60,000 times, shows the men repeatedly firing a rifle at waterfowl swimming on ponds. Some of the shooting took place from inside a car.
Shows men laughing
In one part of the video, the carcass of one bird is repeatedly blasted by one of the men. The men laughed about their actions.
When asked why the three posted their video to the YouTube site, Fraser said they thought the material was funny.
"Why did we post it? Because at the time we thought it was funny," he said. "And as soon as we found out it was a crime, we took it down."
Although officials initially thought the video might have been shot in southeastern Alberta, it was later determined it was done in Saskatchewan near where the men live.
"We thought we were just having fun. Really immature, stupid fun. It was silly to do," Fraser said. "This has been really educational and I regret that it's happened. But it's happened and we're trying to move forward with it."
Outrage over the video resulted in numerous tips to the Saskatchewan Environment Ministry's Turn in Poachers hotline, which led to the trio's arrest on the weekend, ministry officials said.
"I've never seen such a response, and a rapid response, and outrage," Gary Harrison, manager of the ministry's special investigations unit, told CBC News on Monday.
Animal rights groups had offered rewards for information that would lead to locating the three men.
"It was, really, indiscriminate killing of migratory birds," Harrison said.
Among the illegal activities visible in the video is the shooting of birds out of season and shooting birds swimming on the water, he said.
The men were charged with violating the Saskatchewan Wildlife Act and the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.
All three were charged with hunting migratory birds out of season and using a rifle to hunt migratory birds, careless discharge of a firearm and allowing edible game to be wasted.
Rowlands was additionally charged with discharging a firearm from a vehicle.