NHL defenceman and northern Vancouver Island native Clayton Stoner has been fined $10,000 for hunting a grizzly bear without a proper licence as a result of his 2013 grizzly bear hunt on B.C.’s central coast. Stoner was initially charged with five offences including knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting licence, hunting out of season and unlawfully possessing dead wildlife.
The Crown dropped the four latter charges and $6,000 of the total amount fined will be assigned as a contribution to habitat conservation. He is also prohibited from hunting for three years.
Stoner’s status as a hockey player and the combined release of the short film, “Bears Forever,” which heavily featured the bear Stoner killed, nicknamed “Cheeky” by local First Nations, undoubtedly contributed to the attention the case received.
Stoner’s lawyer Marvin Stern delivered his guilty plea in B.C. provincial court in Abbotsford. Stoner, who grew up in Port McNeill and now plays for the Anaheim Ducks, was not in court.
Stern argued that Stoner misunderstood the residency requirements, citing that the NHL lockout kept Stoner in B.C. more than usual that year even though he was a member of the Minnesota Wild at the time and did not reside in the province. Wildlife Act regulations require anyone eligible for a B.C. hunting licence to live in the province for six of the 12 months prior to the spring grizzly bear hunt.
Stern contended that while Stoner may have misunderstood the residency requirements for the hunting licence, and made an incorrect assumption he was a B.C. resident, he did everything else within the law during the hunt.
The Crown said Stoner didn’t try to trick anyone but that he wasn’t diligent in representing himself as a resident.
Following the verdict Clayton’s father, Ken Stoner, published a Facebook post in which he claims to tell “the real story.” Environmentalists and First Nations claimed the animal was Cheeky, a beloved tourist attraction in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest , but Stoner claimed Cheeky never existed and claims the “lies” being told about the incident were extremely hard on his family for the past three years.
Jess Housty, a tribal councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation whose traditional territory the bear was shot, said the decision was good news, but didn’t go far enough to address broader issues.
“I really hope that it makes other trophy hunters think twice about what they’re doing,” she said.
“I’m cautiously optimistic, but I really think it just addresses one side of the coin.”
Housty said a coalition of First Nations made a statement in 2012 condemning trophy hunting because the practice isn’t consistent with tribal laws and values.
“[The fine] does deal with the fact that Stoner didn’t follow regulations,” she said. “What’s not addressed in this judgment, and what can’t be addressed in these courts, is that he also contravened indigenous law and an indigenous ban on trophy hunting in our territory.”
Housty said the death of the 18-year-old grizzly, known as “Cheeky” by local First Nations guardians because it was comfortable being viewed by humans, was upsetting to many in her community.
“We build strong relationships with our relatives in the animal kingdom,” she said. “To lose a bear like this, especially under these circumstances, really grieved people deeply.”
In a victim impact statement, the Rainforest Conservation Foundation asserted it owned the commercial trophy hunting rights in the location where Stoner killed Cheeky.
The court also heard from Central Coastal First Nations representative William Housty who asked that the bear’s remains be returned for ceremonial burial.
With files from CBC News