01/10/2017 14:27 EST | Updated 01/11/2018 00:12 EST

Crown wants 6 months in jail for Yukon poacher who'd rather pay triple the fine

WHITEHORSE — A Yukon judge says he needs more time to decide an appropriate sentence in one of the most serious cases of wildlife poaching he's ever encountered.

Territorial court Judge Mike Cozens adjourned his decision until Jan. 20 for a 34-year-old Whitehorse resident charged with several counts of poaching game animals and permitting meat to waste.

Jonathan Ensor pleaded guilty last week to 16 wildlife violations, including illegally killing a bison, elk, deer, caribou and Dall sheep.

Most of the charges, laid last June, date back to incidents from September and October of 2015. Some reach back to 2014, including charges of poaching a Dall sheep and caribou in B.C. and illegally transporting them back to Yukon.

Crown lawyer Megan Seiling asked the court on Tuesday for a six-month sentence, a $15,000 fine to be paid to the Turn In Poachers and Polluters Program and a 20-year hunting prohibition.

Seiling said Ensor hunted illegally while he was under a firearms prohibition.

Ensor, who represented himself, asked for no time in jail, but a fine of $45,000 instead of $15,000, and a lifetime hunting ban instead of a 20-year-ban.

Serving time could prove to be such a burden for his employer that it may affect the contractor's ability to fulfil his obligations at the construction sites of a new Salvation Army shelter and the Whitehorse General Hospital expansion, he told the judge.

However, Cozens asked Ensor if he'd given careful consideration to exchanging an additional $30,000 and a lifetime hunting ban to spare going to jail.

A fine of $45,000 paid at $1,000 a month, as Ensor proposed, would drag out for years, he said.

A big-game biologist testified about how tough it is to enforce wildlife regulations over such a large area in the Yukon. 

Sophie Czetwertynski said the territory is also home to some of the last natural populations of predators such as wolves and grizzly bears, which consume big game.

In areas such as Annie Lake Road, where Ensor poached a deer in the dark using illegal armour-piercing ammunition inside the 800-metre no-hunting corridor, it's even more important to ensure proper wildlife management, she said.

She said poaching and the lack of reporting big-game harvests can also throw off population assessments and affect legitimate hunting opportunities for licensed hunters.

Ensor told the court his motive for conducting the illegal hunts was to provide food for his family.

He has a support network and a plan in place going forward, he told the judge.

"I have made the changes in my life to ensure this will never happen again."

A co-accused, Vanessa Pasula of Haines Junction, pleaded guilty last August to four counts.

Pasula, 45, was subsequently ordered to pay $5,000 to the anonymous Turn In Poachers and Polluters Program tip line.

She was also prohibited from hunting for three years and ordered to take a hunter education and ethics course before obtaining another hunting license.

Pasula pleaded guilty to killing a bison in September 2015 when not permitted, and allowing the meat to waste. (Whitehorse Star)