By Fram Dinshaw
An Edmonton-area poacher was jailed for five months, fined a total of $10,000, and banned from hunting for nine years after shooting a female grizzly and cub near Robb in 2010.
Frank Kucher, aged 52, was caught after Fish and Wildlife received an anonymous tip-off on Oct. 8, 2010 from a person claiming to have seen the head of a grizzly in his garage and a subsequent search of his home turned up both this and claws from the same bear, two days after he shot them.
The next day Fish and Wildlife officers found the sow and cub carcasses by the Pembina River south of Robb and laid charges. Kucher was convicted in Hinton Provincial Court on Dec. 4 of a total of five counts under the provincial Wildlife Act including two each of hunting wildlife out of season and abandoning carcasses, as well as one of unlawful possession of wildlife.
“Hopefully people will take notice and think before they pull the trigger,” said Gord Stenhouse, program lead for grizzly bears at the Foothills Research Institute (FRI).
While neither bear was being tracked with a research collar, researchers were aware of them due to genetic research that involved taking hair samples from grizzlies and they knew that they both lived in the Yellowhead population unit, located south of Hinton between Hwys 16 and 11. That unit numbered just 42 bears when last counted in 2004.
“It’s an area of concern for people who do research and management,” said Stenhouse.
While he didn’t know why Kucher shot the two bears, he said that poachers in general often shot animals due to fear or not understanding the animals, or killed them as trophies.
But Brendan Cox, spokesperson for Alberta’s Justice and Solicitor General, warned that penalties for shooting grizzlies are higher since they were classified as a threatened species in 2010.
Maximum penalties have doubled to two years in jail and/or a $100,000 fine, up from just one year and $50,000 previously. The last hunting licenses for grizzlies werei ssued in 2005, before they were suspended in 2006 pending further study, prior to their classification as threatened four years later that completely outlawed the practice.
“(The) Alberta Justice and Solicitor General takes poaching seriously. This case highlights how Albertans can help protect our fish and wildlife resources by reporting suspicious hunting or fishing activity,” said Jonathan Denis, Alberta’s minister of justice and solicitor general. More....