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Trespassers fined $1,500 for entering Jasper caribou closures

Loni Klettl photo Three backcountry users were fined $1,500 each after pleading guilty to entering areas closed for the protection of Jasper National Park’s dwindling caribou herds.

caribou Closure
Loni Klettl photo

Three backcountry users were fined $1,500 each after pleading guilty to entering areas closed for the protection of Jasper National Park’s dwindling caribou herds.

The charges relate to two separate incidents, one on the Signal Fire Road and another at Bald Hills.

Jerome Ouellet and Maxime Lavoie were caught hiking up the Signal Fire Road on Dec. 12, 2015 and were charged under the Canada National Park Act.

Both men pleaded guilty in Jasper Provincial Court, Feb. 11.

According to the Crown, cameras installed in the area alerted park wardens that someone had passed the closure. When the wardens arrived at the trailhead they found fresh tracks in the snow.

Unable to locate the two men, a helicopter was dispatched, quickly spotting them. Noticing the helicopter, both men immediately took off running into the forest, but were met by a warden about four kilometres past the closure.

The Crown presented five pictures to Judge J.P. Higgerty, suggesting the pair ignored several signs and ducked a red ribbon across the trail, which clearly indicated the area was closed.

This winter Parks Canada closed winter access to the Tonquin, Maligne-Brazeau and North Boundary areas on Nov. 1 to protect the endangered Southern Mountain Caribou, considered a species at risk under the Species at Risk Act.

According to Parks, human made tracks give wolves an unnatural advantage, allowing them to reach caribou in alpine areas.

The Crown said Parks was actively monitoring a wolf pack that was in the area at the time and staff observed wolves using the pair’s tracks two days later.

The Crown asked the judge to consider charging each man $2,000, arguing the federal government and Parks have invested heavily in the protection of the park’s caribou. She did not seek restitution for the cost of the helicopter.

Duty counsel agreed that what the hikers did was wrong, but asked for clemency because both men were new to Jasper and didn’t find any information about the closure when they were researching the trail online.

He also questioned whether it was necessary to use a helicopter in this situation and asked the judge to considered a shared fine.

“I honestly didn’t find anything on the Internet that said it was closed during the winter,” said Ouellet.

“We didn’t know what we were doing, we weren’t looking for trouble.”

Higgerty listened to the mens’ explanations, but said it’s important people respect the closures.

“When a trail is closed it’s closed,” said Higgerty.

“I hope the newspaper will publish this because it has to be taken seriously.”

Higgerty gave both men a $1,500 fine.

After pleading guilty to snowshoeing at Bald Hills Jan. 2, Delphine Saillard received the same punishment.

According to the Crown, on Jan. 2, a warden followed fresh tracks that were seen entering the closed area and ran into two people coming down approximately two kilometres from the closure.

Only one of the two accused was in court on Feb. 11.

The Crown argued that their tracks indicated they ducked the red ribbon and ignored several signs, including a sign posted on the trail map located at the trailhead.

She asked for the judge to consider charging the woman $2,000, highlighting the fact that there are only three or four caribou left in the Maligne caribou herd.

“I know I did something wrong, but not on purpose,” said Saillard, who was charged $1,500.

“Even if you didn’t read [the signs] you should have known,” said Higgerty.

“In circumstances like these you have to read the signs.”

According to the Crown, there are five more cases to be heard in March that are similar in nature.

Cavell Road, Portal Creek and the Tonquin Valley areas reopened Feb. 16. All other areas closed for caribou conservation will reopen on March 1.

Paul Clarke
[email protected]

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