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Norwegian blogger posts picture online, gets fined for illegal hunting in Yukon

Yukon conservation officers asked Tonje Blomseth if she had shot a ptarmigan. She said no. Then they showed her the photo they found on Facebook.

Social media personality Tonje Blomseth was fined $1,000 for killing a ptarmigan out of season

Norwegian blogger Tonje Blomseth with a ptarmigan she shot in Yukon in 2018. Blomseth posted the picture on Facebook, and ended up with a $1,000 fine for hunting ptarmigan out of season. (Tonje Blomseth/Facebook)

A Norwegian travel blogger and social media personality has been fined $1,000 for hunting a ptarmigan out of season in Yukon.

Tonje Blomseth was found guilty of one offence under the territory's Wildlife Act in an ex parte trial (not requiring her to be present) in Yukon Territorial Court on Tuesday. 

According to her social media accounts, Blomseth and her boyfriend Per Eira arrived in Yukon during the summer of 2017 for what they called a "10-month expedition." Blomseth is a self-described "adventurer and author", hunting and running a pack of Malamutes in far-flung locations around the world, supported by sponsorships from companies in the sports and outdoors industries.

The Yukon court heard on Tuesday how the pair set up camp at Itsi Lakes, around 150 kilometres up the North Canol Road near the Yukon-N.W.T. border.

By September 2017, they were on the radar of conservation officers based in Ross River, Yukon. During a field inspection, officers discovered an illegal structure at Blomseth's camp, and warned them about litter and the general condition of the site.

In March 2018, Blomseth and Eira were headed back to Whitehorse. They spoke with Ross River District Conservation Officer Tynan Thurmer, who reminded them the ptarmigan hunting season was closed for the year. Then the pair headed down the South Canol Road.

On April 13, Thurmer saw a photo posted to Blomseth's Facebook page. She held a crisp white ptarmigan in one hand, and there was a .22 rifle strapped to her back. The caption on the photo read "lunch is saved," in Norwegian.

Intercepted at the Whitehorse airport

Thurmer recognized the location in the photo, and two days later he went there and found ptarmigan feathers and blood on the snow, and a spent .22 shell casing.

Thurmer and another conservation officer then intercepted Blomseth and Eira at the Whitehorse airport just before they were about to leave the territory.

Yukon conservation officers intercepted Blomseth and her boyfriend at the Whitehorse airport, as the pair was about to leave the territory. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

They asked Blomseth if she had shot anything along the South Canol Road, and she said no. They asked if she had shot a ptarmigan. Again, she said no, and added that she knew the hunting season was closed.

Then they showed her the photo they found on her Facebook page.

Blomseth said she couldn't remember where it was taken.

When the two officers told her it was an offence to lie to a conservation officer, she confessed. 

"It was just lunch really," she reportedly told the conservation officers. "It wasn't anything more than that."

The Norwegians said the bird came across their path, and they thought, "what the hell?"

In a later statement from Eira, it was revealed Blomseth killed the bird on April 3. Ptarmigan season had closed on March 15.

Rifle confiscated

Conservation officers confiscated Blomseth's rifle, its case and a padlock from the luggage area at the airport.

She was issued a summons ticket, and charged with illegally hunting a game bird and possessing illegally killed wildlife.

In court Tuesday, territorial prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick dropped the second charge, but asked for it to be considered an aggravating factor. The justice of the peace entered a guilty plea for the first charge on Blomseth's behalf, and issued a conviction.

Kirkpatrick told the court a $1,000 fee was appropriate, and asked the court to order the forfeiture of Blomseth's rifle, case and padlock, estimated to be worth around $400.

She said Blomseth showed a complete lack of respect for Yukon wildlife laws. Justice of the Peace Sharman Morrison agreed, and highlighted how Blomseth lied and was uncooperative with the conservation officers during her interview.

The court will send notice of the fine and forfeiture by registered mail to Blomseth's address in Norway. If she ever returns to Yukon, she'll be forced to pay it.

About the Author

Alexandra Byers is an award-winning journalist with CBC North in Whitehorse. Before she moved to Yukon, she freelanced as a journalist and videographer in Uganda. Prior to that she produced investigative and breaking news with the CBC News Investigative Unit and CBC News Network in Toronto.