Ministry of Environment conservation officers recently completed a two-and-half year investigation into illegal outfitting activities near the community of Hazlet.
The multi-agency initiative led to more than $71,000 in fines for four North Battleford-area men. During a patrol in October 2014, conservation officers encountered four individuals on a ranch in the Great Sand Hills. Information gathered over the next several days indicated that these individuals had been outfitting and guiding two American clients in the area.
A multi-pronged investigation ensued, involving Saskatchewan conservation officers from Leader, Spiritwood, North Battleford, and the ministry’s Investigation Unit. It also included assistance from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin Conservation Officer Service, forensic analysis experts and witnesses from Wisconsin. Investigators determined the four individuals were outfitting illegally and that a mule deer buck had been illegally shot and eventually exported to the United States.
In November 2016, Charles Meechance, age 59, pleaded guilty to unlawfully acting as a guide, unlawful hunting and providing false information. He was fined $10,920. In addition to the fine, Meechance was also issued a five-year court order with the following conditions:
– Not be in the company of anyone involved in any aspect of hunting other than on the lands of a First Nation in the Province of Saskatchewan or in the company of another treaty person hunting for subsistence;
– Provide any details or other information as requested by the Ministry of Environment on all animals killed while outfitting;
– Ensure all clients attend a Ministry of Environment office in person and swear an affidavit that all information and details of the hunt are true; and
– Obtain an export permit for every animal harvested by his or her client.
A trial was held for the other three individuals on May 18 in Leader Provincial Court.
Gerald Meechance, age 37, was found guilty of unlawfully acting as a guide, unlawfully aiding and abetting, providing false information and unlawfully falsifying and applying for an export permit. He was fined $33,800.
Neal Meechance, age 43, was found guilty of unlawfully acting as a guide, unlawfully aiding and abetting and providing false information. He was fined $15,820.
Steven Pritchard, age 47, was found guilty of unlawfully acting as a guide, unlawfully aiding and abetting and providing false information. He was fined $10,920.
Total fines in this case, including the Victim of Crime Surcharge, amounted to $71,460. In addition to the fines, the three individuals were also issued a five-year court order with the same conditions as Charles Meechance, plus the following condition:
– Not be in any vehicle in which there is an un-encased firearm except on the lands of a First Nation in the Province of Saskatchewan or in the company of another treaty person hunting for subsistence.
The charges were laid against the outfitter and guides in October 2016.
Laws to manage outfitting, outfitter allocations and areas are designed to provide effective management of wildlife populations to ensure hunting opportunities are available now and into the future. Outfitting and guiding in unauthorized areas is a serious issue and this type of activity hinders other outfitters who follow the rules.
If you suspect wildlife, fisheries, forestry or environmental violations, please call your local Ministry of Environment office, Saskatchewan’s toll-free Turn In Poachers line at 1-800-667-7561 or #5555 for Sasktel cellular subscribers, or report a violation online at www.saskatchewan.ca/tip. You may be eligible for cash rewards from the SaskTip Reward Program.