Guide-outfitter fined $36,000 for Wildlife Act offences

Cardston-based guide-outfitter convicted of hunting out of season and without a licence

A guide-outfitter was fined $36,000 for hunting out of season and without a licence in Red Deer provincial court on Wednesday.

Richard “Todd” Bunnage, and his now-defunct Cardston-based company Rugged Outfitting, were convicted last month of eight Wildlife Act charges for incidents during guided hunts in the West Country in 2015.

Judge Bert Skinner also banned Bunnage from acting as a guide-outfitter for five years.

The judge said in sentencing that “by not getting the proper licences (Bunnage) was a very poor ambassador for Canada and Alberta.”

Bunnage was guiding U.S. clients when the offences occurred. If word gets out that hiring guide-outfitters could lead to legal issues “this may put this entire industry in jeopardy,” said Skinner.

“So, it’s very important the rules are followed.”

Crown prosecutor Martha O’Connor was seeking $50,000 in fines and a 15-year guide-outfitting prohibition, pointing out Bunnage was already banned from personal recreational hunting for five years after Wildlife Act convictions in 2014.

O’Connor said Bunnage’s actions had the “potential to impact the success of other hunters” and could hurt the reputation of the whole guide-outfitter business.

Defence lawyer Richard Fritze called for smaller fines, arguing Bunnage was not involved in the kind of “blatant and abusive” behaviour that led to large fines and even a prison term in other cases.

There is a “world of difference” in Bunnage’s case, he said.”It’s not like he was gaming the system …”

Fritze also argued that there is a grey area in the province’s hunting licence system because it allows hunters to unknowingly buy invalid licences, adding the facts of the case don’t call for a “sledgehammer approach” in punishment.

Bunnage also addressed the judge, saying he did not realize the hunting licences he had were not considered valid.

“I was not playing the system in any way, shape or form,” said Bunnage.

As part of the decision, the judge ordered that a pair of moose heads and hides taken in the illegal hunts be forfeited. Another head and hide were to be returned to the hunter because it was not connected to a conviction.

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