By Christopher Reynolds
A man who has publicly admitted to shooting two wolves in his Mount Sima neighbourhood last year hopes to have all 10 charges against him dismissed based on his First Nations status.
Clayton Thomas, 32, appeared in territorial court Tuesday on violations of the Wildlife Act from last April.
They include hunting near a residence, hunting out of season and the careless use of a firearm.
Thomas’s uncle, Kusta — both his first and last name — acted as counsel.
He told the court he and Thomas are part of the Tahltan First Nation, with roots in northern B.C.
“Aboriginal rights and title has not been eliminated,” Kusta told the Star outside court.
“The right to hunt and protect our people has never been extinguished.”
Thomas, originally from Teslin, said he does not regret his actions but finds the ongoing legal proceedings draining.
“It’s a lengthy process. It always will be. These court type of things will take a couple years out of a guy’s life.”
A search warrant issued last May allowed conservation officers to rifle through his family’s belongings at their home, “including my wife’s underwear.”
The officers seized roughly 50 items, including memory cards, cameras, laptops and phones.
They also confiscated loaded rifle magazines, skinning tools and rifles.
In total, more than 20 wolf, marten, lynx, deer and wolverine pelts and hides were taken. Elk and deer antlers did not escape the seizure either.
Thomas said in an interview with the Star late last year that all the fur, except from the two wolves, was harvested legally from his family’s trapline near Teslin.
Thomas and Kusta said they plan to apply to have all charges dismissed.
The search warrant states gunshots were heard on April 21 and April 23, 2013 near a Mount Sima driveway, about a week after a dog was killed by a wolf at the same spot.
“The informant has no information that the wolf was ... endangering public safety or dogs at the time it was killed,” the warrant reads.
The killing of animals is tightly regulated in residential areas. It is illegal to hunt within one kilometre of a residence without the permission of the occupants.
“While prevention is the best way to avoid human-wildlife conflict, we recognize that sometimes incidents are unavoidable. The Wildlife Act does allow you to kill wildlife in self-defence and, in some cases, in defence of property,” according to the Environment Yukon website.
“Killing of wildlife for these reasons seldom happens in Yukon, however.”
Thomas, who has a 10-month-old son, told the Star last November he was just trying to protect his family and neighbours from potential conflict.
There were wolf tracks in his yard, and Environment Yukon staff had been alerted to concerns in the neighbourhood, but the wolves remained an issue, he maintains.
“I’m still in awe. I can’t stop questioning how the government feels they were entitled and warranted to come through my house,” he said.
“I’m not a murderer, I’m not a drug dealer, I’m not a child pornographer. But I get treated like all three above.”
Thomas stands accused of:
• hunting out of season;
• discharging a firearm without due care to people or property;
• hunting within one kilometre of a residence without permission from occupants;
• possession of wildlife for the purpose of trafficking;
• obstruction of a conservation officer through false statements or interference;
• hunting with lighting or reflective equipment;
• hunting between sunset and sunrise;
• possession of wildlife killed contrary to the Wildlife Act, two counts; and
• possession of more wildlife species than is permitted under the act.
Thomas is not facing criminal charges. The offences he stands accused of are punishable by fine.
He is due in court again Jan. 24.