Outfitter charged with unsafe bear baiting near Fort McMurray

Weary of the dangers of unsafe bear baiting, Ronald Beaver wants Albertans to know why they should take seriously recent charges against an outfitter who operated in the Fort McMurray area.

'It poses a big risk for everybody'

A black bear stands at the side of Highway 881 near Conklin, Alta., on Tuesday May 10, 2016. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

Ronald Beaver wants Albertans to know why they should take seriously recent charges against an outfitter who operated in the Fort McMurray area — the practice puts others at risk. 

"Once a bear comes to a bait site and is used to the area," said Beaver, a local hunter and member of the Treaty 8 Trappers Association, "it will be protective of that area and if somebody comes close, the bear will probably charge and attack."

Alberta-based Bear Bonez Outfitters and its owner face numerous charges including meat wastage, hunting without carrying the necessary permits and failing to post proper signs warning about the use of black bear bait.

Bear baiting is a technique where meat scraps or other attractants like berry syrup are left in remote locations in the forest.

The goal is to lure bears to a specific area and to make them easier to kill.

Beaver said many trappers, hunters and berry pickers on the Bigstone Cree Nation often stumble upon these areas without warning.

"It poses a big risk for everybody," said Beaver. "Especially hunters who are out there all the time."

'Trophy bear hunting'

Colten Fedorvich, owner of Bear Bonez Outfitters, declined comment on the charges, which were sworn in August.

According to court documents, the company and Fedorvich currently face 14 charges for incidents that occurred in May 2018 and June 2017. None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Court filings show this is the first time Fedorvich and his company have been charged with such offences.

Neither the documents or a spokesperson for Alberta Fish and Wildlife specified the location of the alleged incident, but, according to the outfitter's website, the company operates near Wood Buffalo National Park, south of Fort Smith.

The company's website boasts "our pride, and our promise, ensures that our customers take home trophy" — and features multiple examples of animal kills in photos and video. 

Fish and Wildlife declined to comment specifically on the case as it's before the courts.

However,spokesperson Brendan Cox said he wanted to underscore the importance of using bear bait safely.

"The signs are important to have because it will tell people there's a food attractant nearby and we should expect the presence of bears," Cox said. "It's really a safety thing and warns people they should stay clear of that area."

Slapped with 14 charges

In addition to two charges of failing to post proper signs warning about bear baiting,  Bear Bonez Outfitters and Colten Fedorvich face these other charges:

  • Possession of a legal firearm and ammunition in an unauthorized location
  • Failing to carry hunting, outfitter guide/permit
  • Exceeding the possession limit for northern pike fish
  • Fishing without a sport fishing licence
  • Wasting edible northern pike and walleye fish
  • Catching and retaining fish of a prohibited length
  • Using a prohibited item to hunt big game that's consisted a food attractant.

The Alberta Professional Outfitters Society said most of the province's 484 registered outfitters and 1,500 guides are law-abiding, and that each year on average, 25 are convicted of offences under the Wildlife Act.

"These types of contraventions are the exception, not the norm," said Jeana Schuurman, the society's managing director.

Schuurman said Fedorvich holds a valid outfitter guide permit and is a member in good standing. 

Connect with David Thurton, CBC's Fort McMurray correspondent, on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or email him at david.thurton@cbc.ca 


David Thurton

Senior reporter, Parliamentary Correspondent

David Thurton is a senior reporter in CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. He covers daily politics in the nation’s capital and specializes in environment and energy policy. Born in Canada but raised in Trinidad and Tobago, he’s moved around more times than he can count. He’s worked for CBC in several provinces and territories, including Alberta and the Northwest Territories.