Hunting and Fishing Ontario January 2024
I wanted to share what we have seen in 2023 regarding enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997 and related Regulations. Since 2021 there has been a significant increase in enforcement activity by the Ministry of Natural Resources whom enforces the activities of hunters and fisherman in Ontario.
You must be aware that the MNR has significantly increased the number of Conservation Officers over the last few years. This means that the incidents of contact with enforcement for the average hunter and fisher has significantly increased (basically doubled the likelihood you will be stopped and investigated).
Many contacts with Conservation Officers are the result of complaints coming from the local community, however, there has also been a significant increase in ‘random’ investigations where there is seemingly no reason other than the Conservation Officer being general patrol. They do not need to have any ‘cause’, or ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you have committed an offence to initiate an investigation. You simply can appear that you are or have been involved in hunting or fishing at some point to initiate contact and an investigation.
I wanted to share with you the most common charges our clients have been charged with in the past year in 2023: (hunting and fishing offences)
– Hunting or fishing without a license (This charge can be laid for many reasons, obviously if you have not obtained a hunting or fishing license that is one way, however even being in violation of the conditions of the license you have been issued can result in this offence)
– Make False Statement to Enforcement Officer (providing false statement such as incorrect name, presenting false documentation etc.)
– Obstruct Officer in Investigation (Giving false statement, providing false identification, any action taken to impede an investigation)
– Breach of Conditions (Breaching specific license conditions)
– Possess a Copy or Counterfeit Tag (most commonly happens to average law abiding hunters whom print an additional copy of their legally issued tag – also by intentionally creating a fake tag)
– Failure to Invalidate Tag (Failure to immediately and before moving the harvested animal to invalidate (punch) your hunting tag)
– Fail to Attach Invalidated Tag to Animal (Invalidated ‘punched’ tag must be attached to the harvested animal immediately and before moving it)
– Unlawfully have Loaded Firearm in Conveyance (Transporting a loaded and/or otherwise unsafe firearm)
– Trespassing for Purpose of Hunting (Trespassing on private property without the permission of the owner for the purpose of hunting)
– Kill Moose Without License (Killing a moose without a license or a moose without the correct tag – shooting a bull rather than a calf etc.)
– Hunt Wild Turkey Within 400 m of Bait (Hunting wild turkey within 400 m of where bait is or has been in the last 7 days)
– Unlawfully Possess Wildlife (Being in possession of a harvested animal that was killed in while the activities of the hunt were carried out in contravention of the Act)
– Unlawfully Hunt Big Game Without a License (being in the activity of or having killed big game animal (moose, bear etc.) without a license)
– Unlawfully Discharge a Firearm (from a public roadway)
– Kill and Abandon Wild Game (kill a moose, bear, deer etc. and leave it to spoil so it is unfit for human consumption)
– Throw or Deposit Substance into Waterway (throwing any garbage or refuse or substance into a lake, river, creek etc.)
– Unlawfully Sportfish by Means Other Than Angling, Spear, Dip net, Baitfish Trap, Seine Net or Bow and Arrow (Illegal use of equipment such as long line, unmanned line etc)
– Fail to Notify Ministry of Change of Information (Fail to update home address etc.)
(Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, Fisheries Act, Lakes and Rivers Improvement Act, Provincial Offences Act)
The fact is that a Conservation Officer has a wide range of investigation powers as well as the authority to seize your firearm, harvested animal, fishing gear, boat, truck, UTV etc. if they can articulate that it somehow was to further the investigation or the ends of justice.
Hunting and fishing convictions can carry severe penalties both in significant fines and even jail sentence in severe situations.
Get experienced legal representation if you’ve been charged any hunting or fishing related offences in the province of Ontario. Call SW Legal Services PC for experienced representation since 1999.
2023 Hunting Regulations Summary (ontario.ca)