The defendant was charged with hunting wildlife without a license under section 26(1) of the Wildlife Act (Alberta) after he had shot and killed a cougar that was in a tree about thirty metres outside of his residence. The defendant was a rancher who ran a cattle operation on his land, with cows and calves in the immediate vicinity of his residence. His dog had also gotten into an altercation with the cougar after the animal had climbed down the tree and attempted to flee. The defendant testified that the need to feed his livestock and one of his daughters needing to leave for an appointment while the other daughter had limited cognitive ability and could not be left unsupervised factored into his decision to kill the animal that he considered dangerous. His argument was that he had shot the cougar in self defence to protect his property and the people on it.
Because the charge against the defendant is a regulatory or strict liability offence, the Crown is not obligated to prove intent: only that he had voluntarily shot the animal. If it could be proven that there was no other choice but to shoot the cougar, the defendant’s actions could not be considered voluntary but done out of necessity.
Upon review of the evidence, the judge determined that although the defendant had testifed that he considered the cougar to be a serious threat, he had waited three hours before killing the animal, which indicates that there was no immediate peril. Additionally, within that span of time, a number of other legal alternatives had been available that the defendant did not utilize such as calling the RCMP or the local Natural Resources office, secured his dog to allow the cougar to escape, waited to feed the livestock and keeping his family members inside the home until the authorities were able to come deal with the animal. As a result, it was found that the defendant’s actions were voluntary and he was found guilty.