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Charges stayed against Nunavut Ranger who shot caribou, didn't know about hunting ban

A Canadian Ranger from Igloolik, Nunavut, won't face any penalties for illegally harvesting a caribou in 2015 when he didn't know there was a ban in place.

Michael Irngaut wasn't aware there was a ban on hunting Baffin Island caribou

In 2015, with Baffin Island caribou herd numbers sharply declining, the Nunavut government imposed a moratorium on hunting them, followed later by the current quota system. (Nathan Denette/CP)

A Canadian Ranger from Igloolik, Nunavut, won't face any penalties for illegally harvesting a caribou in 2015 when he didn't know there was a ban in place.

On Thursday, Justice Neil Sharkey stayed the charge against Michael Irngaut, 25, because he convinced the court he legitimately didn't know he wasn't allowed to hunt the bull.

In 2015, with Baffin Island caribou herd numbers sharply declining, the Nunavut government imposed a moratorium on hunting them, followed later by the current quota system.

In February of that year — a month after the moratorium was implemented — Irngaut was on patrol, headed toward Mary River. Canadian Rangers are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, patrolling remote and isolated regions to support national and regional safety.

Once camped, Irngaut's sergeant called the local hunters and trappers organization (HTO) to check on the status of the moratorium. The sergeant was erroneously informed by an elder — who was also on the HTO's board — that the ban was no longer in effect.

The next day, the group spotted a dozen caribou, 1,500 metres away, and Irngaut shot a bull.

He later surrendered the hide to a conservation officer, upon request. Four months later, Irngaut was formally charged with illegally harvesting a caribou in a restricted area, under Nunavut's Wildlife Act.

'Exceptional' case

According to Nunavut's Environment Department, Irngaut is the only person to be charged under that section of the act, since the 2015 ban and the subsequent quota system came into effect.

Irngaut pleaded not guilty and testified that if he knew the ban was in effect, he would not have shot the caribou.

"I found that Mr. Irngaut harvested the caribou based on erroneous information or advice which he had received from the HTO via his patrol sergeant," Justice Sharkey wrote in a 24-page decision.

"I found that he therefore had a valid defence called 'officially induced error.' This defence is available in exceptional cases, and I found that this was such a case."

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