A Kamloops judge has ordered provincial conservation officials to destroy a Stone’s sheep killed in northern B.C. more than two years ago, ruling the hunter who shot the animal could not prove it was old enough to take.
Mackenzie Crawford killed the sheep on
Sept. 6, 2016, in an area south of the Muskwa River near Fort Nelson.
Conservation officers seized the animal’s remains following a compulsory inspection, ruling the ram’s horns showed it had not reached the age of eight years, the minimum age required to be hunted.
Crawford applied to a judge for the animal’s return.
The ram’s remains have been kept refrigerated and were brought in a cooler to court for Crawford’s application hearing at the Kamloops Law Courts, which spanned three days in November.
Crawford called an expert who described horn aging as a subjective skill and said he believed the ram was likely 9.5 years old when it was killed.
A Crown expert, however, said his conclusion was that the ram was seven years old.
“As is evident from the expert opinion heard in this case, the aging of the Crawford ram is not a straightforward exercise,” Kamloops provincial court Judge Stephen Harrison said in his decision.
“Two well-qualified people with ample expertise and experience could not have disagreed more plainly in their assessments of the age of the ram.”
Harrison said the question for him to answer was whether Crawford had proven the ram was at least eight years old when it was killed.
“I am not satisfied that the applicant has established on a balance of probabilities that the Crawford ram had reached the required age and was therefore lawfully taken,” the judge said.
“In the result, the application for the return of the wildlife is refused.”
If Crawford does not appeal Harrison’s decision, provincial officials will dispose of the ram’s remains after 30 days.