A Canadian man has been fined $7,500 CAD after pleading guilty to shooting a black bear in Jasper National Park. The judge rejected his claim of “fear “as a justification for carrying a loaded firearm on a hiking trail.
Serge Painchaud, a welder from Edmonton, hiked the popular Overlander trail in August 2022 with two friends. As they ventured on the nine-mile hike, Painchaud openly carried a 20-gauge shotgun and ammunition, which is forbidden under Canadian law.
Tired, Painchaud eventually turned back, leaving his friends to continue the hike. On his way back, he encountered a black bear near the trail and claimed to have become scared. According to the agreed statement of facts, Painchaud fired a warning shot, and when the bear approached, he fired a second shot, hitting the bear. The injured bear then rolled down a bank and fled into the woods.
Park wardens were alerted by Painchaud’s friends, who had heard the shots. The search for the bear was challenging due to dense forest conditions and topography. Park wardens discovered two shotgun shells and traces of blood where Painchaud had fired his gun.
Bear attacks are extremely uncommon in the Canadian wilderness, and fatal encounters are even rarer, despite the high volume of human and bear interactions. Nevertheless, the use of firearms in national parks is strictly prohibited to ensure public safety and protect wildlife.
Crown prosecutor Adam Karbani argued for a fine of up to $10,000, along with a year-long probation, which would bar Painchaud from using a Parks Canada pass, and a two-year prohibition on owning firearms. However, Painchaud’s lawyer, Edmond O’Neill, emphasized that his client had no criminal record or wildlife offenses and had pleaded guilty to avoid a trial.
During the hearing, Painchaud’s fear of bears was dismissed by Justice Rosanna Saccomani. She stated that fear of bears is a common sentiment among individuals in such situations, stating, “[That] would apply to pretty much every single person in your situation. We’re all afraid of bears.”
The case highlights the importance of adhering to regulations and laws in national parks. These areas are designated to protect both wildlife and visitors, ensuring a safe and harmonious coexistence. Carrying firearms in national parks poses significant risks and can have severe consequences for both individuals and the ecosystem.
This article by Trinity Sparke was first published by OneGreenPlanet on 11 July 2023.
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