Some thinhorn sheep in the Yukon. (Submitted photo/Government of Yukon)

Some thinhorn sheep in the Yukon. (Submitted photo/Government of Yukon)

Judge rejects hunter’s bid to get back a sheep shot in northern B.C.

Despite expert testimony, judgement says ram probably underage

Despite providing an expert witness, a B.C. hunter lost an appeal to have the ram he shot returned to him after it was confiscated during an inspection.

The debate was all about age of the ram. Mackenzie Crawford shot a thinhorn mountain sheep, believing it to be full-curl, or a ram over eight years of age, as required by law. However, during a compulsory inspection the ram was deemed to be around seven years of age and was confiscated.

ALSO READ: Peninsula crime fighters need more volunteers

Crawford was hunting for the sheep, also know as a Stone’s sheep, in 2016, near Crehan Creek in Omineca-Peace, northern B.C.

In court, Crawford was supported by Dr. Valerius Geist, an expert with over 60 years of experience, who was convinced the sheep was over 9 years old.

The disagreement stems from how Stone’s sheep ages are estimated.

Hunting regulations formed to meet the requirements of the Wildlife Act 1996, look for “true horn annuli,” which in layman’s terms means a full set of curled horns. Much like the rings of a tree, a series of gnarled horn sections can demonstrate how many years the ram has been alive. The question is: does each sheep produce a full section every year or do environmental factors slow or speed the growth of the sections?

Geist holds a PhD in Zoology, and has decades of experience studying populations of thinhorn sheep, which produced four books. Now retired, he formerly taught at the University of Calgary for 27 years and mentored BC Fish and Wildlife employees in correctly aging sheep.

ALSO READ: Guns could use smartphone-style fingerprint locks in near future

In court, Geist said there are significant differences between populations of high mountain sheep and lower level groups, due to food abundance and other factors, such as fertilizer pollution. Additionally, he opined that in this specific case the ram had lost 6 to 7 inches of early horn growth due to “brooming,” or parts of the horn snapping off due to wear and tear.

Geist said the ram was from a northern population known for low body and horn growth and, like a person’s shoe size, using statistical averages was irrelevant in judging the age of sheep. He gave data examples showing rams with 13 inches of difference in their horn growth.

William Jex, a Regional Wildlife Biologist with the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations & Rural Development was called as the Crown’s witness. Holding a diploma, he is a Registered Professional Biologist, with many years experience and is the province’s lead on thinhorn sheep and manages inspectors.

The court observed of Jex, “He said that in his professional view the Crawford ram had seven annuli [horn sections] and that was the extent of it. He was firm in his opinion that the Crawford ram was under eight years when it was taken.”

ALSO READ: Victoria hits top three in B.C.’s rattiest cities

Jex cited his department’s use of more modern studies, tooth age analysis and X-rays, although the judge noted he had no formal training in interpreting X-rays. He did provide extensive data sets and graphs from his department’s records and reported the plaintiff had not submitted an incisor tooth for analysis, failing to add to the required burden of proof.

The final judgement said it was “not a straight-forward exercise” due to the experts’ profound disagreements but ruled against Crawford, stating the failure to submit the incisor tooth had added to the judge’s view he had not established “on a balance of probabilities” the ram was eight years old.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Volunteer Robbie McKnight works the screening table at the Coast Mountain College COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Smithers. (Deb Meissner photo)
Smithers clinic expands vaccine eligibility to ages 60+

Community members born in 1961 or earlier can now call for an appointment at 1-844-255-7555

Styrofoam burning at the Woodmere Tree Nursery in Telka created billowing black smoke over Tyhee Lake and resulted in air quality advisory for Bulkley Valley. (Contributed photo)
VIDEO: Telkwa styrofoam fire air quality advisory lifted

A woodpile fire at Woodmere Tree Nursery spread to styrofoam blocks causing air quality concerns

Restaurant patrons enjoy the weather on a patio in Vancouver, B.C., Monday, April 5, 2021. The province has suspended indoor dining at restaurants and pubs until at least April 19 in B.C. due to a spike in COVID-19 numbers. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. sets new COVID-19 daily record with 1,293 cases Thursday

New order allows workplace closures when infections found

The new 3,500 hectare conservancy in Tahltan territory is located next to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (BC Parks Photo)
New conservancy protects sacred Tahltan land near Mount Edziza Provincial Park

Project is a collaboration between Skeena Resources, conservation groups and the TCG

The Smithers Local Health Area reported just six new cases of COVID-19 for the week of March 21 - 27. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly COVID cases decline in Smithers and Northwest

Smithers community members born in 1951 or before (70 years old) now eligible for vaccination

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

Most Read