VAL DOMAINE PHOTO
PRICEY PENALTIES IMPOSED FOR CARIBOU CLOSURE TRESPASSERS
Three people were given stiff fines last week for entering areas closed for caribou conservation.
On February 11 Jasper Provincial Court heard two cases wherein parties were charged by Parks Canada for trespassing in delayed access areas. After hearing the cases, Judge J. P. Higgerty imposed fines of $1,500 for each person.
The court learned that on December 12, two males—one from Jasper, one from Beaumont—walked part way up the Signal Fire Road after ducking the tape delineating a wildlife closure. The area is part of the Maligne Range, where a small herd of caribou is known to live. On November 1, as part of conservation measures to protect the dwindling species, the Maligne Range was closed to all winter users until February 29. Parks Canada took the steps to prevent facilitated predator access—i.e., wolves using packed ski trails to access caribou habitat, as demonstrated by scientists.
Alerted to the area by an electric monitoring system on the trail, Parks Canada wardens followed the men’s footsteps in the snow, wherein they discovered the two trespassers.
Notable for the Crown’s submission was the fact that when a Parks Canada helicopter flew over the area to assess the situation, the two men hid in the bushes. Their defence that they didn’t read the signs did little to sway Higgerty.
In a different incident on January 2, two female snowshoers were caught in a delayed access zone in the Bald Hills area. Similar to the first case, the women had to duck underneath tape and walk by prominently-displayed signage to access the area. According to warden Mike Misskey, Parks Canada staff at Maligne Lake noticed fresh tracks in the snow and decided to investigate. The staff member encountered the trespassers approximately 2 km up the fire road; the women were on their way back from the subalpine.
“They had gone straight up into caribou habitat,” Misskey said.
Only one woman was at court on February 11 (the other woman’s court date is March 10). The woman who stood pled guilty to the charge, but like the hikers on the Signal Road, claimed she did not read the signs.
Judge Higgerty reiterated to all parties the severity of their actions in light of Jasper’s fragile caribou populations. The $1,500 fines were less than the $2,000 penalty the Crown was asking for.
Five more people will face similar charges for trespassing in caribou closures. Those cases will be heard in Jasper Provincial Court on March 10.