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New Brunswick man convicted following violent confrontation with conservation officers

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A surveillance photo taken by game wardens shows two poachers taking sea ducks out of season. Both were arrested and fined.The generations-old problem of out-of-season poaching of migratory birds in the springtime continues to bedevil enforcement officers, judging by an operation by game wardens last April that involved guns, the use of force and, eventually, big fines in some of the cases.

The entire course of these multiple crimes took only about four hours to unfold, attesting to the scope of illegal hunting of sea birds in some areas of the province.

The charges stem from an investigation on April 3, 2010, on the Acadian Peninsula, says Craig Smith, manager of operations for the Maritimes for Environment Canada's wildlife division.

That morning, Smith and another warden challenged two armed men on the shore, one of whom had two bags containing 21 dead scoters, which are migratory sea ducks. That man wanted nothing to do with the enforcement officers.

"We got into a fight," Smith says.

"We wrestled and we fell into the water. He broke away, dropped the birds, ran up the beach, grabbed a shotgun, jumped on a four-wheeler and took off."

Smith grabbed hold of the ATV and was dragged about 50 metres down the beach by the vehicle before he was forced to let go of the bike.

Within a month, though, wardens identified the man and charged him.

Judge Frederic Arsenault sentenced Paul-Andre David, 23, of Pigeon Hill, to fines totalling $6,350 on convictions for having a firearm in a boat during a closed season, having a firearm within 50 metres of the water during a closed season, riding an ATV without wearing a helmet, failing to stop an ATV for a peace officer, having an ATV on a beach, hunting migratory birds out of season, hunting from a power boat, hunting with toxic shot, illegal possession of migratory birds, obstruction of a peace officer as well as a traffic ticket for failing to stop when signalled by police.

In addition, David is prohibited from hunting migratory birds, or being with anyone else who is hunting migratory birds, for two years.

All of the hunting gear was forfeited to the Crown.

His companion was fined $300 for having a firearm near the water during a closed season.

That wasn't the only action the wardens faced that morning.

Earlier, the officers saw two men with shotguns at the water in the area of Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphael.

"They had firearms within 50 metres of the coastline during a closed season," Smith recalls.

Both were fined $300.

The wardens also visited the area of Le Goulet, where through the thick fog, they saw two men on the water.

"We saw a powerboat with two men in it, chasing scoters and shooting them," Smith says.

The wardens photographed and videotaped the action.

"But someone telephoned them and alerted them to our presence. They took off in the boat and later returned to ask us if we were game wardens. We said we weren't and they left."

The two culprits were busted after the wardens pulled over their truck on the main road through the area.

One of the men was seen shooting two ducks and was fined $6,000 for his crime. The other was fined $120 for having a firearm and no hunting licence.

All of these events happened between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. in a single day, which hints at the scope of illegal duck hunting in the spring in that area.

Hunting migratory game birds out of season is a perennial problem in some parts of the Acadian Peninsula, veteran enforcement officers say. Smith himself worked there as a provincial game warden back in 1994, and it was a problem then.

Federal wardens say they are determined to put a dent in the ongoing poaching and anyone involved in the illegal activity can expect a visit from them, "anywhere, and at any time," Smith says.

Penalties under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act can range as high as $1 million plus three years in federal penitentiary for the worst offenders.

The provincial New Brunswick Fish and Wildlife Act also prohibits the possession of firearms within 50 metres of the coast during closed season for hunting migratory birds; possession of firearms aboard vessels during closed season for hunting migratory birds; and possession of a firearm in a resort of wildlife unless authorized by a licence.
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