A Manitoba man has been convicted of multiple hunting offences following an extensive night hunting investigation, according to the province.
An investigation began in 2017 when conservation officers received a video that showed a group of people in a truck chasing elk through a field at night near Carberry, a release from Manitoba Sustainable Development said.
The vehicle was seen following a herd of elk through a field, trying to get close enough to shoot one.
Using a spotlight and shooting from the vehicle, the individuals eventually killed two elk.
Tracks were discovered, showing the vehicle had chased about 40 elk for nearly two and a half kilometres.
The field is in a populated area with several homes nearby and, at times, the vehicle was within 400 metres of Highway 351 and approximately a kilometre away from the Trans-Canada Highway.
Following an extensive investigation that involved numerous interviews and animal DNA testing, on Feb. 25 Keifer Joseph Spence was convicted of hunting at night with lights, chasing big game from a vehicle and hunting on private land without permission.
Spence was fined $3,000 and the truck and hunting equipment used that evening were forfeited.
He was also suspended from holding a big game hunting licence for one year and given a wildlife restitution fine of $5,000 — which goes into the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund — for illegally taking two bull elk.
Charges against a second individual were stayed.
Incidents such as this have remained consistent in the past couple of years, said Craig Gerstmar, special services co-ordinator and regional field supervisor for Manitoba Conservation Officers.
In 2018, there were 17 night-lighting cases and three dangerous hunting charges, Gerstmar said.
Entering into hunting season this year, there has been one charge so far for dangerous hunting.
"One of the things we notice more now is that landowners are taking more of a stand. They’re tired of it and are very concerned for their own safety," Gerstmar said. "Residents in Westman have been very vocal and supportive of our officers and what we’re doing. They’re taking more of an initiative in giving us information in what’s transpiring."
Public safety is the province’s major concern with any unsafe hunting practices, Gerstmar said.
There have been instances where bullets have been shot near houses or barns at night where landowners reside and work, Gerstmar added, as well as areas where cattle and horses are out on the property.
"Hunting at night is a very dangerous act because you really don’t know where you’re aiming, and you don’t know your background," Gerstmar said. "Someone using a firearm is responsible for the bullet from the time the bullet leaves the gun when it’s fired to the time it comes to a full stop … these laws are based on safety."
Landowners are urged to report night-lighting or any other dangerous hunting practices through the provincial tip line at 1-800-782-0076, which is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
Callers are encouraged to take down as much information as possible — such as vehicle descriptions, licence plate numbers and number of individuals involved — so conservation officers can attend the area and investigate further.
It’s important, however, that landowners not take the law into their own hands, Gerstmar said.
"Don’t go out there and confront people. Take whatever information down that you can … and conservation officers can investigate further," Gerstmar said. "We’re limited on what we have for manpower on the landscape, so we really utilize the public to help us address some of the concerns that are out there that we can’t always be in that place to see. It basically becomes our eyes and our ears."
The province also reported a Bissett man was convicted of possessing illegally taken wildlife after conservation officers discovered two moose carcasses near the community in February 2018, where a moose closure is in place to protect declining populations.
The man pleaded guilty to possessing illegally taken wildlife and was fined $1,800 in addition to $11,000 in restitution to the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Fund.
He was also suspended from big game and game bird hunting for two years.
The two moose were donated to local First Nations communities.
Three fishers in Whiteshell Provincial Park were also convicted of overfishing after they were caught in August with more than two dozen fish above the legal limit.
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