CLOSED SEASON BISON: Manning District
Hay-Zama lowlands located west of High Level were selected in the late
1970s and early 1980s as a suitable location for the reintroduction of
wood bison. In 1983, 29 bison were introduced from Elk Island National
Park, located east of Edmonton. The Alberta Fish and Wildlife Division
has monitored the gradual increase in bison numbers and their range by
conducting aerial surveys in the late winter. During the 2007 survey,
approximately 650 bison were seen in an area ranging from the Hay-Zama
Lakes to the Chinchaga River to the Zama City area. The Fish and
Wildlife Division has categorized the area west of Highway 35 and north
of the Chinchaga River as a Bison Protection Area and any bison within
that area are classified as Endangered.
On July 4,
2007, Owen Lake Pickell, 18, of Fort St. John, British Columbia and
Steven Neil Dean, 39, of Chateh, Alberta appeared in Chateh Provincial
Court before Judge E. J. Simpson. Pickell pled guilty to one count of
hunting wildlife during a closed season and one count of allowing the
edible flesh of big game to be wasted. As a result, Pickell was handed
total fines of $11,500 and suspended from holding a recreational hunting
license for six years. Dean pled guilty to one count of allowing the
edible flesh of big game to be wasted and received a $5,750 fine plus a
one-year recreational hunting licence suspension.
heard that on April 8, 2007, at 11:00 p.m. a public complaint was
received regarding a bison calf that had been killed inside the
protected area. The following morning at approximately 7:00 a.m., Fish
and Wildlife officers attended the scene and located a head and gut pile
from a calf bison. Officers obtained a vehicle description belonging to
a construction company in Assumption, Alberta. Investigators attended
the construction company and located a vehicle of interest. A red Dodge
parked behind the shop displayed blood on the side and in the box.
Officers also observed a rifle and bloody knife inside the cab of the
vehicle. A check of the BC licence plate revealed that the vehicle
belonged to Pickell.
provided a statement, at which time he admitted to shooting the bison
calf, loading it using a picker truck and then transporting the bison to
the construction camp. Upon arrival back at camp, the camp manager –
Dean – told Pickell that he could not keep the bison as it was a
protected animal. It was decided that the bison would be buried at one
of the lease sites. Pickell and Dean drove to a lease site and buried
the bison carcass.
Bison are protected west of Highway 35 and north of
the Chinchaga River.
statement was obtained from Dean confirming that the bison calf had been
buried, at his direction, near a lease site.
knife and blood samples were seized from Pickell's truck. Arrangements
were made for Pickell to retrieve the bison and turn it over to
investigators. On April 10, 2007, Pickell used an excavator to dig down
approximately 20 feet in order to unearth the bison carcass and place it
into the back of a Fish and Wildlife patrol vehicle.
The bison carcass was exhumed and placed into the
officer’s patrol vehicle.
SETTING THE HOOK ON FISH POACHERS: Hinton
On June 6,
2007, two residents of Hinton appeared in Hinton Provincial Court to
answer to numerous charges laid in relation to events that occurred in
early April of 2007. Upon hearing the circumstances, Judge Don Norheim
accepted the guilty pleas and fined the pair $2,700 in total – $1,800 of
which was to be directed to the Alberta Stream Watch Coalition. In
addition to the fines, both men were further prohibited from fishing in
Alberta for a period of one year.
7, 2007, a Fish and Wildlife officer was conducting fisheries compliance
checks east of Hinton. Upon approach at a popular fishing hole, he
observed two individuals fishing together along the banks of the
Athabasca River. The Athabasca River opened on April 1 in that area,
making it one of the only flowing water bodies open to fishing that
early in the year. In an effort to evaluate compliance with regulations,
the officer monitored the two fishermen from a distance. Over a one-hour
period, the officer noted both anglers catch and retain several fish.
From his observation point approximately 75 metres away, the officer was
able to hear parts of their conversation and identify some of the fish
they caught and retained. In total the officer observed one male, later
identified as Justin James Hope, 20, catch and kill three fish. He
observed Gregory David Day, 29, catch and kill two fish. No effort was
made by either man to measure any of the fish they caught to ensure they
met the minimum legal size requirement. The officer observed only one
fish that had been released – what appeared to be a Rocky Mountain
whitefish released by Hope.
fish that Day was observed to catch and kill appeared to be a bull
trout. Bull trout populations have declined in Alberta due mainly to
over fishing. The species has been intensively managed over the past
decade and is strictly a catch and release fishery.
that day brought in was later confirmed to be a bull trout and had been
caught on a second illegal “dead line” that Day and Hope had been
monitoring. Hope assisted Day in landing and killing the bull trout and
had clearly stated to Day, after looking towards shore, that “We should
stash it.” They were then observed by the officer to hide the fish in an
old beaver run approximately 50 metres from where they were fishing and
some distance from their other cache of fish.
Day was observed to bait and set the dead line, Hope had offered to
check it on at least one occasion. After caching the bull trout, Hope
suggested to Day that they should set up the extra rod as an additional
Regulations are clear in that only one line may be fished in open water.
The dead line in question was a baited pickerel rig attached to a spool
of fishing line that was concealed along the edge of the ice. Use of
bait is strictly prohibited as a means of curbing hooking mortality,
which is generally higher for fish hooked in the gill area and stomach
region. About 25 per cent of trout caught on natural and scented baits
die after release, compared with less than 4 per cent caught on flies
It was at
that point that the officer intervened. He greeted the men and asked how
their day was going. Both men advised the officer that fishing wasn’t
bad and that they had been fishing for about an hour. When asked if they
had caught any fish, Hope responded that they caught about five, but all
were released. When asked, both acknowledged that they did not hold
valid angling licences.
the pair maintained that they kept no fish, the officer advised them of
what he had observed and proceeded to retrieve several trout stashed
beneath a thin layer of ice along shore.
questioning, Hope indicated that the group of four fish was his catch
while Day claimed the group of three. All fish were identified as
rainbow trout, one of which measured under the legal size.
officer inquired about the dead line they had been using and eventually
located it. Day and Hope acknowledged responsibility for the second set
line that had been baited with bacon on barbed hooks. In addition, the
men were found using barbed treble hooks. Barbed hooks have been
prohibited for use in Alberta for the past five years.
The men claimed to have released all their fish, but
the officer knew better.
Day and Hope hid the illegal bull trout in an old