The Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) told the Tribune the conservation of wildlife and other resources within WLIB’s traditional territory is a matter of critical importance to both the Council and the WLIB community as whole. (Angie Mindus photo)

Conservation officer service investigating illegal harvest of cow moose near Sugar Cane

The animal had been allegedly harvested by a WLIB counsellor

With the support of band council, the B.C. Conservation Officer Service (COS) is investigating a complaint of a cow moose illegally shot and killed near the community of Sugar Cane, just south of Williams Lake, recently.

Conservation officer Adrian Hayward confirmed the Williams Lake Indian Band (WLIB) reported Jan. 31 that a band member had allegedly shot and killed the cow moose on private property just south east of the community.

“During a combined investigation between the BC COS and the WLIB law enforcement office it was found that a cow moose had indeed been shot on private property and that the cow moose had been allegedly harvested by a WLIB counsellor,” Hayward said, noting he was grateful for the full support the COS has received during the investigation from the WLIB Counsel and the alleged offender.

“We’ve had great support from Chief Sellars,” Hayward said. “He’s been very supportive of this investigation.”

Aaron Mannella, chief administrative officer for WLIB, told the Tribune this week that the WLIB was made aware of the recent incident involving a WLIB council member, who is alleged by BC Conservation Services to have harvested wildlife in contravention of the BC Wildlife Act.

“While there may be issues in relation to the exercise of aboriginal rights or other legal defenses raised by the alleged offender, WLIB Council wishes to make it clear that the conservation of wildlife and other resources within WLIB’s traditional territory is a matter of critical importance to both the Council and the WLIB community as whole,” Mannella said in a statement to the Tribune.

Read More: First Nations community supports charges in Cariboo region cow moose poaching case

“As such, WLIB Council fully supports the investigation and review of this incident by BC Conservation Services. It is the further understanding of WLIB Council that the alleged offender is also fully cooperating with the aforementioned investigation, which was conducted by BC Conservation Services and WLIB law enforcement officer, Andy Johnson.”

The WLIB has shown its support in recent years for the Cow Moose Sign Project, which is a grassroots awareness campaign aimed at trying to stop the harvest of cow moose due to the declining population of moose.

Indigenous people have constitutionally protected rights to hunt, fish and trap in a number of circumstances. They are also exempted from the application of the provincial Wildlife Act in certain circumstances.

But, Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) between the COS and First Nations communities are being signed more and more to address management and safety issues aired by both parties.

Mannella confirmed the WLIB intends to enter into a MOU with the BC COS as soon as possible.

“Ideally, this memorandum would provide enhanced protection for all wildlife species in WLIB traditional territory, including cow moose. Specifically, we would like to see strong, structured enforcement for all Indigenous and non-Indigenous hunters who plan to harvest wildlife on Secwepemc traditional territory,” he said.

“With an MOU guiding future hunting activity in the territory, we will more effectively protect and preserve all species in the area.”

Mannella added that, ultimately, a decision to enter into an MOU with the COS will be made at a WLIB government level, with input led by elected officials and staff.

Currently the COS has MOUs with Xeni Gwet’in First Nation (Nemiah) and Stswecem’c Xgat’tem (Canoe Creek) First Nation.

Hayward said MOUs help to address the harvest of cow moose as well as hunting practices posing a risk to public safety.

Earlier this month three Indigenous men were charged under the Wildlife Act for allegedly poaching a cow moose on traditional ?Esdilagh territory, between Williams Lake and Quesnel, last winter. The charges came about with the full support of chief and council.

Hayward noted that once this latest investigation is complete, more information will be released regarding charges.

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