By Shurtz, Delon on March 19, 2020.
Two men who illegally shot and killed a grizzly bear, then tried to hide the evidence, are set to be sentenced later this year.
Jeffery Edison Hambrook and Gary Edgar Gilson were scheduled to be sentenced Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court, but the matter was adjourned to the end of May, when a new sentencing date will be set, possibly for the fall.
Both men were charged with offences under the Criminal Code and Wildlife Act following a hunting trip west of Claresholm, where the bear was shot and hidden, and a fellow hunter was threatened to prevent him from reporting the shooting to authorities.
During a court hearing Jan. 6 in Fort Macleod, Hambrook pleaded guilty to a charge under the Wildlife Act of hunting out of season – as a protected species there is no hunting season for grizzly bears – and to charges under the Criminal Code of assault and uttering threats in relation to property.
Gilson pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of wildlife, theft under $5,000 and uttering threats in relation to property.
Crown prosecutor Michael Fox explained the men were camping at a designated campsite Nov. 2, 2018 when a fellow hunter, Maxim Krekhovetski of Calgary, shot a whitetail deer, brought it into camp and hung it next to a deer already hanging from a meat pole about 50 metres away.
During the night a grizzly bear tore off a chunk of the first deer, and hauled down Krekhovetski’s deer and dragged it into the bush. The hunter found his deer the next morning some distance in the woods, dragged it back to camp and hung it higher on the meat pole.
About 7:40 that evening, a light was activated by a motion sensor, and trail cameras caught the bear trying to get at the meat. At 10 p.m. the bear returned, but Hambrook and Gilson were hiding nearby. Shortly afterward Hambrook shot and killed the bear, and in response to a query by Krekhovetski, claimed he only fired a warning shot.
However, the next morning Krekhovetski found the grizzly bear, took a picture of it, then began arguing with Hambrook while taking pictures of vehicle licence plates. While taking pictures of Gilson’s licence plate, Krekhovetski and Hambrook began fighting and Hambrook managed to pin Krekhovetski to the ground. When Krekhovetski refused to delete the photos from his cellphone Gilson took it from his pocket, but couldn’t unlock it.
Gilson, who was holding an axe, threatened to smash the phone unless Krekhovetski gave him the password to access the phone. After other campers yelled for them to stop, Hambrook got off Krekhovetski and his phone was eventually returned to him. The next day, after he returned to his home in Calgary, Krekhovetski reported the incident.
Hambrook, Gilson and one other hunter, Jack Murphy, loaded the bear on a trailer and hid it in the woods a short distance away. When a Fish and Wildlife officer arrived to investigate the shooting, Murphy directed him to the hiding spot.
Fox told court that while the Crown cannot prove Hambrook intended to shoot the bear, the hunter still fired in the animal’s direction and was reckless as to whether the bear would be struck and killed.
Although the Crown has yet to recommend a sentence, lawyers for Hambrook and Gilson noted during the hearing in January that they intend to ask the judge for a conditional discharge on the Criminal Code offences.
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