A decision to illegally shoot a five-point elk has been a “black eye” on a formerly prominent hunter who has since fallen from grace.
Derek Sward, 36, had been prominent in the hunting community in the Southern Interior, previously serving two terms — totalling four years — as the president of the Keremeos-Cawston Sportsman’s Association, as well as some time as the vice-president of the Southern Interior Houndsman Association.
Sward also was involved with the B.C. Conservation Officer Service to report illegal hunting, all on top of running a taxidermy business, according to his lawyer, Douglas Lester.
But Sward has since fallen from grace, after he was charged with shooting a five-point bull elk in a hunting trip in the Kootenay regions, where hunting season was only open to six-point bulls and up.
Sward was also accused of falsifying some records for his taxidermy business.
Sward pleaded guilty to a count of hunting out of season and to a count of unlawful possession of dead wildlife in Penticton’s courthouse Wednesday morning.
Upon investigation, Sward initially told conservation officers he shot the five-point elk in another region, where hunting season was open to three-point elk and up. But after officers put pressure on Sward, he admitted to killing the five-point elk in an area where it wasn’t legally permitted.
A subsequent search warrant found portions of the elk in his possession.
Crown lawyer Mallory Treddenick was seeking a fine of $5,000 to $6,000 and a two-to-three-year hunting prohibition for crimes with a maximum penalty of a $100,000 fine and a six-month jail sentence.
In her sentencing position, Treddenick noted despite the initial misleading comments from Sward, he did enter an early guilty plea.
But Treddenick told the court the laws surrounding which elk hunters can kill in each area are in place for important reasons.
“The environmental impact is obviously important, the seasons and the limitation on seasons are put into effect in response to reduced populations in those species,” she said.
“When hunters violate that and hunt during the closed seasons, they put the whole species at risk, and they thwart those positive steps that parliament is taking to try and maintain the health and livelihood of that species.”
She added beyond the environmental impact, there is an economic impact to local regions from hunters going into the region to hunt. A survey found that a hunter typically spends $6,620 per elk hunted in the region in which Sward illegally shot the elk.
With that in mind, Treddenick was seeking a sentence that would act as a general deterrence.
Lester noted the incident put an end to Sward’s taxidermy business, and he was forced to return wildlife along with refunds to those who had been using his services at the time.
Sward has also reportedly become estranged from his father, who is a conservationist with the B.C. Wildlife Federation, which Lester said was “extremely distressing” to Sward.
“In addition, there’s been a great deal of social media attention to this which has caused Mr. Sward considerable embarrassment and stress,” Lester said.
“It’s had a significant impact on his life.”
Prior to sentencing from Judge Gregory Koturbash, Sward apologized to the court.
“It was wrong, and I always try to be an upstanding citizen and do the best I can with everything,” he said. “Definitely a black eye on my life, and I do apologize to everybody that’s been involved.”
Lester asked for a fine of $2,000 and a hunting suspension of two years.
In his sentencing, Koturbash said deterrence is “paramount,” accepting that the incident has had a major impact on Sward’s life already.
Koturbash imposed a total penalty of $3,150, with $2,000 going toward the Habitat Conservation Trust Fund, and a two year hunting prohibition.