British Columbia

NHLer Clayton Stoner fined $10K for hunting grizzly bear without a proper licence

Clayton Stoner, an NHL defenceman from northern Vancouver Island, has pleaded guilty to one of five charges stemming from a grizzly bear hunt in 2013.

Stoner has never denied shooting a bear, but disputed allegations he lied to obtain a hunting licence

NHLer Clayton Stoner shot a grizzly bear on B.C.'s Central Coast in 2013. (CBC)

NHL defenceman and northern Vancouver Island native Clayton Stoner has been fined $10,000 for hunting a grizzly bear without a proper licence.

Of that amount, $6,000 will be assigned as a contribution to habitat conservation. He has also been prohibited from hunting for three years.

Provincial court Judge Brent Hoy said this case received more attention because Stoner is a hockey player. 

Stoner pleaded guilty in B.C. provincial court in Abbotsford on Wednesday to one of five charges stemming from the hunt in 2013.

Stoner, who grew up in Port McNeill and now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, was not in court. His lawyer delivered the plea of guilty to one charge of hunting and killing a grizzly bear without a proper licence on Stoner's behalf.

The Crown dropped four other charges against him, including knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting licence, hunting out of season and unlawfully possessing dead wildlife.

First Nations condemn trophy hunts

Jess Housty, a tribal councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation on whose traditional territory the bear was shot, said the decision was good news, but didn't go far enough to address broader issues.

"I really hope that it makes other trophy hunters think twice about what they're doing," she said. 

"I'm cautiously optimistic, but I really think it just addresses one side of the coin." 

Housty said a coalition of First Nations made a statement in 2012 condemning trophy hunting because the practice isn't consistent with tribal laws and values. 

"[The fine] does deal with the fact that Stoner didn't follow regulations," she said. "What's not addressed in this judgment, and what can't be addressed in these courts, is that he also contravened indigenous law and an indigenous ban on trophy hunting in our territory." 

Housty said the death of the 18-year-old grizzly, known as "Cheeky" by local First Nations guardians because it was comfortable being viewed by humans, was upsetting to many in her community.

"We build strong relationships with our relatives in the animal kingdom," she said. "To lose a bear like this, especially under these circumstances, really grieved people deeply."

Misunderstanding of residency requirements

B.C.'s Conservation Officer Service alleged that Stoner failed to meet Wildlife Act regulations requiring anyone eligible for a B.C. hunting licence to live in the province for six of the 12 months prior to the spring grizzly bear hunt.

The court heard that Stoner bought a resident hunting licence on March 22, 2013, and that he shot and killed an adult male grizzly near Bella Bella on the central coast of B.C., taking the head and hide.

Stoner, who was a member of the Minnesota Wild at the time, has never denied shooting a grizzly, but his lawyer Marvin Stern disputed the allegation that Stoner improperly obtained the hunting permits.

Stern argued that his client is a British Columbian who had to work in the U.S. for his job as an NHL defenceman. Stern also argued that because of the NHL lockout, which ran into January 2013, Stoner was probably in B.C. more than usual in the year leading up to the grizzly hunt.

This image of Clayton Stoner was published by the Vancouver Sun in 2013. At the time, Stoner told the media, '[I] shot a grizzly bear with my licence while hunting with my father, uncle and a friend in May. I love to hunt and fish and will continue to do so.' (Vancouver Sun)

Stern contended that while Stoner may have misunderstood the residency requirements for the hunting licence, and made an incorrect assumption he was a B.C. resident, he did everything else within the law during the hunt. 

The Crown said Stoner didn't try to trick anyone but that he wasn't diligent in representing himself as a resident. 

In a victim impact statement, the Raincoast Conservation Foundation asserted it owned the commercial trophy hunting rights in the location where Stoner killed Cheeky. 

The court also heard from Central Coastal First Nations representative William Housty who asked that the bear's remains be returned for ceremonial burial.

With files from Belle Puri and The Canadian Press