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Clayton Thomas fined for illegal wolf hunt in Whitehorse after long trial

A Whitehorse resident has vowed to appeal his conviction for what he says was his aboriginal right.

Whitehorse resident insists he did nothing wrong when he shot wolves in residential area

Clayton Thomas with a wolf he killed near his Whitehorse home in April, 2013. Thomas texted this picture to his friends. (Environment Yukon)

Whitehorse resident Clayton Thomas has been fined $6,500 in Yukon Territorial Court for illegal hunting, careless use of a firearm and trafficking in wildlife.

The charges stem from incidents near his home in the Mount Sima subdivision in April 2013 when Thomas shot two wolves several days apart.

He said the animals had been lurking around his neighbourhood and he was worried for the safety of his family and others. At his trial, Thomas, 35, also argued that as a member of the Tahltan First Nation in Northern B.C., it was his right as an aboriginal Canadian to kill the wolves.

But Judge Donald Luther ruled in December that Thomas was never in danger and his hunting rights in B.C. are not transferable to Yukon. 

Thomas told the judge at his sentencing Monday that he still feels he did nothing wrong. His representative in court, Kusta, went further, accusing the judge of violating his judicial oath by not recognizing Thomas' aboriginal hunting rights.

But Thomas was actually a bigger threat to community safety than the wolves by firing his rifle in a residential area after dark, said government prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick. There were 50 lots within the range of his gun, she said.

Conservation officer Aaron Koss-Young testified that officers generally only shoot wolves when they are unusually aggressive. He said a dog that had been killed at Mount Sima at the time of incident was out wandering after dark and as such would have been normal prey for a wolf.

Kirkpatrick said Thomas was using full metal jacket shells which are not legal for hunting. She said two magazines that had been reconfigured to hold 30 rounds were also seized from Thomas. The legal limit is five rounds. 

She had asked for a minimum of $9,000 in fines, but Judge Luther said that was too high, and lowered it to $6,500.

Thomas has to forfeit the seized ammunition, one rifle and the two wolf pelts. He's also banned from hunting for two years, except for subsistence purposes.

Thomas told the judge the matter might not have come to court if conservation officers had been less aggressive when they searched his home. He raised the issue of seized photographs taken from his cellphone. Some of the photos are of a "very, very personal" nature, Thomas said, and he's not comfortable with the government possessing them.

Kirkpatrick said they'll be held until the case is done and promised the photos will not be disseminated.

Thomas said he will appeal his conviction.