Man in Arctic Canada fined for unlawfully killing polar bear

A polar bear stands on a ice flow in Baffin Bay above the arctic circle as seen from the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent Thursday, July 10, 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)
A man from Inuvik, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, has been fined $1,500 for killing a polar bear last year.

Justin Elias, 31, was found guilty in N.W.T. Territorial Court in August of killing the animal without a bear tag, a violation of the Wildlife Act, and for unlawfully keeping the bear’s pelt.

According to an email from Roger Shepard, counsel for the Attorney General of the N.W.T., Elias was also given a year of supervised probation and was ordered to perform 15 hours of community service.

Shepard stated that Justice Christine Gagnon recommended the community service be under the direction of the Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee.

Wanted to keep the pelt

In 2018, Elias and his friend, Merreck Allen, were hunting in the Western Arctic. After successfully killing a caribou, they took their boat to Garry Island, hoping to hunt beluga whales.

Upon landing on shore, Elias and Allen saw the polar bear stand up.

The court heard that Allen told Elias to “Make sure he doesn’t come around while I’m scoping for whales.”

At some point, Elias went over a hill on the island. Allen then heard two or three shots. Elias had shot the bear.

Elias admitted during the trial that he knew he should’ve reported the incident to the territorial Department of Environment and Natural Resources, but he wanted to keep the polar bear fur. He would have had to turn the pelt over to wildlife officers if he reported the killing.

Self-defence claim rejected

Elias claimed self-defence during his trial last summer, but Justice Gagnon rejected that defence when she delivered her guilty verdict in August. At the time, she said that because the life-threatening situation was “clearly foreseeable to a reasonable observer,” it could not be considered a real emergency.

Shepard said Justice Gagnon also ordered that the seized polar bear hide be forfeited to the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Since Elias had “shown hardship,” there was no victim of crime surcharge.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Inuit artists criticize Canada’s Green Party leader for opposing commercial seal trade, CBC News

Finland: Growing deer population leading to more accidents, property damage in Finland, Yle News

Norway: Arctic fox’s rapid journey from Svalbard to Northern Canada stuns researchers, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Poachers suspected behind dwindling wolf numbers in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Mackenzie Scott, CBC News

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