11/19/2014 09:24 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST

Yukon man tells court he can legally shoot wolves because of aboriginal rights

WHITEHORSE - A First Nations' man who claims to have an aboriginal right to shoot wolves has pleaded not guilty to three charges under the Yukon Wildlife Act.

Clayton Thomas told a Yukon territorial court that he acted in accordance with his aboriginal rights when he shot two wolves in a Whitehorse subdivision last year.

Thomas, a 33-year-old member of British Columbia’s Tahltan First Nation, is charged with 10 infractions of the act.

Prosecutor Lee Kirkpatrick said the Crown will proceed on three charges: illegal hunting, the careless use of a firearm and trafficking in wildlife.

Thomas doesn’t dispute that he shot the two wolves last year.

He argued he was justified in doing so, that the wolves were a safety concern in the neighbourhood, and as an aboriginal, his actions were legal.

Representing himself, Thomas said he plans to call six witnesses — including Tahltan elders from Watson Lake and Dease Lake, B.C. — to testify when his hearing resumes in December.

When the trial started Monday, Kirkpatrick read a statement of agreed facts by Thomas and the Crown.

On April 17, 2013, Yukon conservation officers received a complaint from a resident in the Mount Sima subdivision that wolves killed his dog at the end of his driveway.

A statement said a week later that an unnamed source told the conservation officers that Thomas, also a neighbourhood resident, had killed a black wolf the night the dog was killed, and texted a photo of the wolf to friends.

Conservation officers received a second tip that Thomas had sent around a photo of him holding up a grey wolf carcass. The source reported hearing gun shots at about 11 p.m. April 17, and more gunshots at about midnight on April 22.

Conservation officers served a search warrant at Thomas’ home on May 3.

Officers seized 47 items, including five wolf hides, sheep horns, firearms, ammunition and computers. The five wolves, Thomas said, were harvested in B.C. under his subsistence rights.

The statement said Thomas admitted to shooting two wolves in the neighbourhood.

Thomas did not have residents' permission to be hunting within one kilometre of houses, Kirkpatrick said, as wildlife laws dictate.

Three days have been set aside for Thomas' witnesses to testify about Tahltan culture and hunting and trapping practices, starting Dec. 8.

(Whitehorse Star)

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