Court orders man to donate $5,000 to wildlife trust in deer harassment case

A Portuguese man was fined $1 in Terrace Provincial Court Wednesday Sept. 2 and ordered to donate $5,000 to the Heritage Conservation Trust Fund for hitting a swimming deer on the head off Bish Cove in Douglas Channel on May 14.

Rodolfo Lopes, previously misidentified in court documents as Martins-Lopes, pleaded guilty in to one count under the BC Wildlife Act of harassing wildlife with a motor vehicle.

Evidence in the case showed that Lopes hit the deer on the head with a jig or gaff in an attempt to bring it on board. The deer managed to escape and make it to shore.

Such donations are permitted under the BC Wildlife Act. The money, which Lopes originally paid in bail, will be allocated to conservation efforts in the Kitimat region.

Other charges against Lopes, a former supervisor at the Rio Tinto Alcan Kitimat Modernization Project, including one count of causing unnecessary pain and suffering to an animal under the Criminal Code were stayed by the Crown.

Provincial Court Judge Terence Wright also prohibited Lopes from approaching wildlife for the next two years unless required by his employment.

Lopes did not return from Portugal for the hearing. Vancouver lawyer Don Sorochan, QC, appeared on his behalf.

Crown counsel Corinne Baerg said Lopes was a supervisor at Brasco, one of the subcontractors at KMP, and had hired a fishing guide to help celebrate both the end of their work at the aluminum smelter modernization project and Lopes’ planned wedding in August.

After a day of what was apparently unsuccessful fishing, Lopes and five others were on board the boat, returning to Kitimat, when a deer was spotted swimming in Douglas Channel.

According to the submission, the guide then took the boat “ running up alongside” the deer. At that point Lopes hit the deer on the head with what some witnesses said was a jig and others said was a gaff in attempt to haul it on board. The deer was able to free itself, swam to shore and disappeared into the bush.

After Conservation Officers were told  about the incident by residents in Kitimat who saw a video of the fishing trip on Facebook, one of the men on the boat voluntarily surrendered cell phone video and other evidence was seized under a search warrant. The video was not shown in court.

Because Lopes was not a Canadian resident he was arrested and spent time in custody before being granted bail and was permitted to return to Portugal.

In his defence submission, Sorochan said Lopes was not familiar with Canadian hunting and wildlife laws and was totally dependent on the “advice of his professional guide.” Sorochon told the court that the incident had become exaggerated by people gossiping on social media.

Sorochan told the court that Lopes began with Brasco as a bricklayer in 1996 and had quickly risen to supervise construction projects all over the world. The lawyer called the attempt to get the deer “a naive impulse” by a man who was trying to be macho in an unfamiliar setting.

He submitted letters of reference for Lopes from Brasco, another company and a Kitimat union.

Wright, in confirming the proposed sentence, said that given the circumstances, the fine and donation was the “appropriate penalty.”

Wright noted that it was not possible to ascertain how badly injured the deer was. He also noted that Lopes did not have a criminal record and his employer had praised his work in many parts of the world.

Andreas Handl, who runs Kitimat’s Kingfish Westcoast Adventures, was scheduled to appear in a Kitimat court Thursday, Sept 3, but the appearance was adjourned until October.

He is charged under the B.C. Wildlife Act with harassing wildlife with a motor vehicle and hunting wildlife while swimming, as well as causing unnecessary pain and suffering under the Criminal Code.

Kitimat LNG, Rod and Gun to consult on “legacy” fish and wildlife program at Bish Cove: NEB


Bish Cove, site of the KM LNG (Kitimat LNG) natural gas terminal, photographed on a stormy Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011. (Robin Rowland/Northwest Coast Energy News)

KM LNG (also known as Kitimat LNG) will consult with the Kitimat Rod and Gun club about creating a “legacy” fish and wildlife program at Bish Cove, according to the National Energy Board decision that granted an export licence for liquified natural gas to the partnership.

As part of its consideration of the social, economic and environmental aspects of the project, the NEB noted:

The Kitimat Rod and Gun Association requested that KM LNG and its partners establish a fish and wildlife “legacy” program for the area. In response, KM LNG committed to working with the Kitimat Rod and Gun Association to explore a partnership and stated it and its partners are committed to investing in the communities where KM LNG operates. KM LNG noted it already supported some community initiatives and would set aside funds to support others, after a positive investment decision.

KM LNG has hired the energy services company KBR to do a front end engineering and evaluation study of the project which is expected to be completed in December. The partners will then make the decision whether or not to go ahead with the project.

Mike Langegger of the Kitimat Rod and Gun, who made the presentation to the hearings in June, says the club has had some preliminary talks with the KM LNG public relations staff but so far there have been no formal talks about the legacy program.

In its presentation to the NEB, Kitimat Rod and Gun said it would ask KM LNG for a legacy fund that would be $7.25 million over the twenty-year period of the export licence. The money would be used to preserving fish, wildlife and habitat in the area around the natural gas terminal

Langegger says while it is uncertain if KM LNG will agree to the complete proposal, no matter what the outcome he wants all stake holders to be involved, with they are “consumers” (hunters and anglers) or “non-consumers” (naturalists) so that the habitat is maintained.


NEB decision on KM LNG application(PDF)

Kitimat Rod and Gun submission to NEB (PDF)