A multi-agency investigation spanning over several months involving Canadian and U.S. conservation agencies has resulted in guilty pleas and fines against a Battleford outfitter and northern guide.
Battleford outfitter Brett Mitchell, 49, of Mitchell’s Outfitting, and Pinehouse Lake guide Kelly Natomagan, 46, pleaded guilty to a string of charges after an investigation began by the Ministry of Environment began in September 2016.
The investigation into the suspected illegal outfitting activities in the Pinehouse Lake area began in Saskatchewan, when the two men were working with five American clients.
According to Ken Aube, chief enforcement and investigation officer with the Ministry of Environment, the group was hunting bears and various birds they were not licenced for. The ministry was patrolling the area at the time and came across the group, which did not have proper documentation.
Saskatchewan ministry officials asked for assistance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to collect statements and evidence from previous clients, leading to additional charges being laid under the Wildlife Act, the Fisheries Act and the Outfitter and Guide Regulations.
According to Aube, an investigation as complex as this with multiple jurisdictional agencies can often take several months to complete due to the time it takes to gather information and statements of those involved.
The accused appeared in North Battleford Provincial Court on Feb. 1 where both pleaded guilty to several charges, and were fined a total of $5,790.
Mitchell, who was banned from hunting for a year, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting a client without a hunting licence, aiding and abetting a client to hunt big game with a projectile of .23 calibre or less, contravening the terms and conditions of an outfitter licence by providing big game bird hunting, and providing false or misleading information. Mitchell was fined a total of $4,110.
Natomagan pleaded guilty to unlawfully providing a guiding service for big game bird hunting, aiding and abetting a client to fish with a Treaty Indian fishing for food and obstructing a peace officer. Natomagan was fined a total of $1,680.
The ministry said outfitting and guiding in unauthorized areas is a serious issue and this type of illegal activity hinders other outfitters who follows the rules.
“Laws to manage outfitting, outfitter allocations and areas are designed to provide effective management of wildlife populations to ensure hunting opportunities are available now and into the future,” the ministry said in a release.
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