BANFF – Two hunters were fined $10,500 each after pleading guilty for hunting two bighorn sheep last year by using trails in Banff National Park.
Dylan Luckwell and Sheldon Nichols entered guilty pleas to two charges under the Canada National Parks Act in Canmore Provincial Court on Monday (Oct. 29) for unlawfully transporting two sheep and guns.
Crown prosecutor Anita Szabo detailed the circumstances that led to the regulatory offences against the pair to Judge George Gaschler, as per an agreed statement of facts.
She said park wardens observed a black Ford F150 parked at the Owen Creek trailhead on Aug. 20, 2017 that was registered to Nichols and just over a week later wardens were informed by Fish and Wildlife that two trophy bighorn sheep were killed by the hunters in close proximity to Banff National Park.
Szabo said the area in which the sheep were harvested is very difficult to access from provincial trails, a distance of approximately 30 kilometres. However, it is only six kilometres to access the area from Banff National Park trails.
“Therefore an investigation began to ensure the sheep were accessed in a lawful manner,” she said.
A wildlife trail camera in Banff National Park revealed images of Nichols and Luckwell on Aug. 20 carrying overnight backpacks, prominent hunting equipment and gun socks the size of a rifle, according to the agreed statement of facts.
Furthermore, Luckwell provided a cautioned statement in October and admitted to entering Banff National Park with firearms on four separate occasions that summer: Aug. 19 to hike up Owen Creek to scout for sheep; Aug. 20 to hike down Owen Creek to return to the vehicle; Aug. 23 to hike up Sunset Pass trail in Banff National Park to hunt sheep in the adjacent provincial areas of Pinto and Michelle lakes;
Aug. 27 to hike down Sunset Pass and return to the vehicle.
“Luckwell also admitted that he and Nichols had each successfully hunted a bighorn sheep in the province of Alberta, and that on Aug. 27 they transported their sheep down Sunset Pass trail in Banff National Park to return to their vehicle and exit the park,” Szabo told the court.
Search warrants were subsequently executed at Artistic Taxidermy in Edmonton to seize the two sheep heads and at the hunters’ residences to seize firearms, bighorn sheep meat and cellphones.
Szabo said it would have cost up to $22,000 to have the same trip facilitated by an outfitting company through the provincial route.
While both faced multiple charges under the Parks act, they pleaded guilty to two charges with a $3,500 and $7,000 fine recommended to the judge by the Crown and defence counsel.