A mining company near Carmacks has been convicted of violating the Wildlife Act for failing to report the killing of a bear in 2016.
Derek Dodge appeared in territorial court Tuesday by phone, with deputy judge William Digby presiding.
Dodge represented himself and his company, Derek Dodge Mining Corp. He is featured in Gold Rush, a reality TV show.
Territorial Crown prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick said she has been in contact with Dodge.
Based on the discussions, she told the judge there is a joint submission ready to present to the court.
As per the agreement, the company would plead guilty to one count of failing to report the killing of a bear. The Crown would stay all three charges against Dodge himself, and two charges against the company.
The stayed charges against Dodge were:
• one count of encouraging wildlife to become a public nuisance;
• one count of failing to report the killing of an animal to a conservation officer; and
• one count of allowing the bear’s pelt to be wasted.
The company also faced these three charges, and the first and third were stayed as well.
Digby asked if the company could be held liable for the actions of its employees.
Kirkpatrick explained that Derek Dodge Mining could be convicted for something done by its employees.
Digby asked for a plea, and Dodge said he was pleading guilty on behalf of his company.
Kirkpatrick read the agreed statement of facts.
On May 21, 2016, four black bears were killed in the Carmacks area. None were reported to a wildlife officer.
Kirkpatrick said Dodge was well aware that he would have to report a killing a bear on his property.
She pointed out he was given this information in 2013 from a conservation officer. That officer told him that if a bear wandered onto his property and posed a safety risk, he could kill the animal, but would have to report the incident and turn in the carcass.
The killing would need to be reported to a conservation officer or the Turn in Poachers and Polluters line.
Kirkpatrick said Dodge had similar discussions with conservation officers in August 2015 and March 2016.
A conservation officer received a tip about four unreported dead bears in Carmacks. An officer responded on July 15, 2016.
Kirkpatrick said she did not dispute that the bear posed danger to the mining operation; instead, she focused on the failure to report.
She said Dodge had a satellite phone at the time which he could have used to report the incident.
The conservation officer spoke with Dodge during the investigation on July 15, 2016.
Dodge was asked if there were bear problems in the area. The officer reported that Dodge said there were no issues and that no bears had been killed in the area.
The joint submission only covered one of the dead bears – the one that Dodge admitted to killing himself.
Employees killed the other three. Kirkpatrick said they were following the boss’ lead.
Kirkpatrick explained that Dodge thought the worker who had killed the bear had to be the one to report the incident.
She added that he was worried his mining operation would be shut down while conservation officers investigated the incident. She added that he has since taken responsibility.
Dodge did not dispute any of the facts.
As for the joint submission, Kirkpatrick said the fines for failing to report can be significant.
The fine for an individual can be as high as $50,000 for the first offence and $100,000 for a corporation.
The agreement called for Dodge to make a $3,500 donation to the Wildlife Conflict Solution Education Program on behalf of the company.
This initiative provides information on how to avoid conflict between humans and bears. She said he has already made this donation and presented the court with a receipt.
“This would be an appropriate way to deal with this matter,” Kirkpatrick said.
She feels this order will deter similar behaviour.
Dodge said he had nothing to add.
Digby accepted the joint submission and wished Dodge luck.
“I hope you have a good mining season with no conflict with bears,” he said.
Dodge thanked Digby and added that he has not been in conflict with wildlife for the past two years.