Martin (Marty) Thomas of Grand Forks has been found guilty of illegally hunting a bear using bait. The verdict came only a couple of months after he was named B.C.’s top guide outfitter by the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. (GOABC).
Thomas received the Leland Award for top guide at the GOABC convention in Kelowna on March 28, 2015. Along with the award, which is a bronze statue, Thomas received a cheque for $1,000 as well as gear from Sitka Hunting Apparel.
The Leland Award has been around since 2000 and recognizes professionalism in the ranks of guides in B.C., Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.
Thomas was originally charged on Sept. 12, 2012. He was found guilty on July 9, 2015 at Fort Nelson Law Court. The penalty is a $3,500 fine. He was acquitted of a second charge of possessing the dead grizzly without authorization.
Thomas is requesting the return of the dead grizzly, which currently resides in the possession of the local conservation office. The application for Clarification on Bear Hide is set for Aug. 10, 2015 in Fort Nelson Law Courts.
Thomas was unavailable for comment as he is up north guiding.
His wife Marlene told the Gazette she was unhappy with the fact that other publications had published the wrong information.
“He was charged not for baiting a bear but for knowing the carcass was there and taking the bear,” she said. “He wasn’t charged with baiting. I don’t know why they put that as a headline.”
Marlene told the Gazette that the conservation officers (COs) became aware of the situation after a story appeared in a magazine (Super Slam magazine) about the hunter.
“They didn’t know anything until his hunter wrote a story…that’s when the COs were told about that and came and confiscated the bear,” she said.
Marlene said that when the COs came by, Marty had already mounted the bear for his client.
Marlene reaffirmed Marty did not bait the bear.
“There was a dead carcass in the area that they shot the bear,” she said. “He knew there was a carcass there and that’s what he was guilty of. Just knowing there was a carcass in that area…that’s what he was charged with—not for baiting.”
Marlene said her husband would be back in court in August (10th in Fort Nelson) to attempt to retrieve the bear hide for the hunter.
Micah Kneller, Fort St. John Conservation Officer, told the Gazette that the offence occurred in a remote location southwest of Fort Nelson and northwest of Fort St. John.
“Marty Thomas, who is an assistant guide, took out a client on a hunt,” he said. “They (the client) shot a moose and harvested it lawfully and all that. The remains were left (a gut pile). They returned to the gut pile to hunt a grizzly bear and eventually shot a grizzly bear on the gut pile.”
Kneller said the client returned to the United States and wrote the article for the magazine and it was brought to their attention.
“In B.C. it’s illegal to hunt any species of bear with bait,” he said. “That includes non-natural food sources that people place to attract bears, even a carcass that they’ll take into an area to attract a bear. It also includes gut piles and stuff like that that the hunter may not have placed but knows that it’s there.”
Kneller said that even though Thomas did not shoot the bear (his client did), he is responsible for what his client shoots.
“Whatever the client does the assistant guide is responsible,” said Kneller.
Kneller said the fine ($3,500) is to be paid to the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund. He added that as an assistant guide, Thomas will have to reapply each year for a licence as all guides do
The licence is granted by the Fish and Wildlife department of the Ministry of Forest, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations.
“They are aware of (the charges) and he’s hunting again so I assume he has a licence,” said Kneller.
Scott Ellis, executive director of the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C., said their board would review the matter at their next meeting. He said they were not aware of the charges until after they handed Thomas the Leland Award.
“The board will review the criteria and what he was judged on and won the award, and decide if there is any action required,” said Ellis.
Ellis said that GOABC promotes lawful hunting in B.C.
“People that are not familiar with the regulations typically use a guide,” he said. “Those who are not from B.C. need to be guided. So when they hunt for big game (they need a licence). Marty made a mistake and was found guilty. There was a judgment against him for that. The Leland Award is for conservation and outstanding ethics and standards around the hunting world and the guiding industry. So we will have a look at that for sure.”