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Yukon judge advises hunting guides to take more care with kill

A Yukon territorial court judge has recommended that professional guides take precautions when temporarily leaving part of a kill in the field to avoid being charged with wasting meat if a bear gets to the carcass before they do.

Judge Michael Cozens made the comments during his decision on the case against guides Brett Ackerman and Oneil Baillargeon, who were accused of wasting the better part of a moose.

The two men, employed by Lone Wolf Outfitters, were guiding a pair of American hunters in the Yukon's Livingston Creek area in September of 2007.

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After one of the hunters shot a moose, they field dressed the carcass and took the quarters, backstrap and the antlers, leaving the remaining meat at the kill site.

They told the court earlier this year that they'd intended to return for the remainder of their kill the next day.

They took the antlers and backstrap to camp and hung the quarters at a nearby air strip.

But when Mr. Ackerman returned to the kill site, the sound of howling wolves sent him packing.

He told the court that their calls indicated a bear had chased the pack off the meat and was likely guarding it.

Not wanting to get into an altercation with either a bear or a pack of wolves, he turned back.

A few days later, a pair of conservation officers showed up at the hunting camp. They saw the trophy antlers and backstrap, and asked for the whereabouts of the rest of the animal.

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The guides showed them the quarters, which were about three kilometres away from the camp and said the rest was still in the field.

Mr. Baillargeon, the more inexperienced of the two guides, said he agreed that the men had "abandoned" the remaining meat because they figured it had been taken by a bear.

In giving his decision, Judge Cozens said that while that was a poor choice of words, it wasn't an admission of guilt.

When the conservation officers tried to take one of the guides to the kill site, bad weather kept them away from the meat until they could return with a helicopter.

At that point, they found what the guides suspected all along - a bear lying on its scavenged booty.

But the bear was no match for the hovering aircraft. It ran off, leaving the buried kill behind.

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When the conservation officers dug it up, they salvaged 42 kilograms of edible meat, although the neck and tenderloin were never found.

The guides were charged with wasting meat, both for the parts left in the field and the quarters they'd taken and hung at the air strip.

The conservation officers said the meat was not properly covered and had effectively been left for the bears as well.

In their defence, the guides pointed out that Lone Wolf Outfitters had stored meat at the airstrip for 12 hunting seasons without incident.

They said they left the meat in the field with the intention of picking it up the next day but concern for their safety prevented them from doing that.

Judge Cozens noted in his decision that the guides did not take any steps to guard the meat they left in the field.

They could have urinated around the area, hung clothes in nearby trees or at the very least, pole staked the kill site so they would be able to tell if the remaining meat had been moved by a scavenger, he said.

Because those are just suggestions, not laws, Judge Cozens said, he could not consider them in his final ruling.

"The difference between conviction and acquittal in this case is a very fine line," he said.

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