Two area men had their snowmobiles seized and face several charges after allegedly trying to evade police and conservation officers conducting aerial patrols in caribou habitat on the weekend.
Sgt. Jeff Tyre of the Conservation Officer Service (COS), Cariboo Chilcotin Zone, said the local men, who are in their 30s, were riding “well into an area” closed to protect caribou at Grain Creek near Likely Saturday when they were spotted at about 12:30 p.m. from the air.
BCCO’s have seized 2 snowmobiles near Likely BC. 2 males are being investigated for offences under the Wildlife Act and Off Road vehicle Act after they were observed operating in an area closed to protect caribou on March 10th #caribou #cariboo pic.twitter.com/JatH7DPz56
— BC CO Service (@_BCCOS) March 11, 2019
The COS has been ramping up aerial enforcement of caribou closures in recent years in the region in an effort to ensure compliance and protect the vulnerable species.
“Before we found these gentleman, we spotted a small herd of caribou in the area,” said Tyre, who was on the patrol himself.
Tyre said attempts to communicate with the snowmobilers were unsuccessful, so officers left the scene and returned to the trailhead with a COS vehicle.
Ultimately, both men were eventually stopped, with one being arrested and released on scene and is expected to face criminal charges. Officers seized both the men’s backpacks, jackets, GPS, helmets and snowmobiles for evidence.
“We will be taking this one to court,” he said, noting charges will be recommended under the Wildlife Act, Off Road Vehicle Act and Criminal Code.
Tyre said notice of the caribou closure was well-posted on a nearby logging road in the Grain Creek area, however, even if there wasn’t signage Tyre said the onus is on riders to ensure they are not riding in snowmobile closures.
Tyre said aerial checks don’t always end up in the seizure of snowmobiles, but that the case Saturday was unique.
He does hope this case sends a strong message about the possible outcomes of riding in the closures.
Snowmobile clubs in the region have urged members to adhere to the caribou closures while they continue to voice their concerns to government as stakeholders over a loss of riding areas.