A judge has found a Tofino man guilty of shooting and killing a mom and baby bear after a three-day trial earlier this month.
Ryan Owen Millar was found guilty of two counts of killing an adult bear out of season and killing a bear less than two years old.
On October 14, 2021, Thomas Funk was on holiday at an Airbnb that neighbours Millar’s home. Funk testified in court that he and his wife were using the hot tub in the Airbnb when they noticed a bear and cub in a nearby tree.
They proceeded to go inside and watched the bears from a window, at which time they saw Millar retrieve “a couple of bows” then he went outside and aimed at the bears, who were both in a tree.
Funk testified that Millar shot one bear, which then fell out of the tree, and Funk was about to yell at Millar to ask what he was doing, but before he could Millar shot the bear again.
Millar then shot the second bear that was still in the tree, which then fell and ran off. Millar then chased after it and shot it again.
Funk then caught video of Millar hiding the first small bear under a tarp.
Funk then called the RCMP non-emergency line to report the incidents.
Millar declined to testify in court, but an RCMP constable and officer and two Conservation officers provided evidence of their conversations with Millar at the time.
The RCMP constable who was first on scene, and who is not named in the court document, says he spoke with Millar who said he didn’t know anything about bears being shot.
The constable says he told Millar “If you have shot a bear you should tell me” at which point Millar says there was a bear, but he scared it away.
The second attendance at Millar’s home was by an unnamed RCMP officer, and Conservation Officer Troy Sterling on Oct. 14 at 9:30 p.m.
Sterling testified that when they attended the property, they could see a dead bear in the distance in the water. Due to the tides, a decision was made to return the next day at low tide to retrieve the bear.
Sterling and Conservation Officer Andrew Riddell returned the next day to retrieve the bear, which they were able to do, and attempted to get a more formal statement from Millar on what happened.
At this time, Millar did say he shot a bear in self-defence because there was deer meat that had been left outside and the bear charged at him. The day before Sterling had noticed there was deer meat hanging outside the house.
The dead bear was found approximately 15 metres from Millar’s house. At this time, the conservation officers confiscated hunting licenses for bear, goat and deer from the accused.
“There is the utterance to the first RCMP Officer on scene that the accused said he did not know anything about a bear being shot,” Judge Alexander Wolf wrote in the judgement. “As the investigation would reveal, this was not a truthful statement.”
Additionally, the bear was brought to Dr. Caeley Thacker, a Wildlife Veterinarian that works with BC Ministry of Forests, Fish and Wildlife Branch. She says the necropsy found that the bear had been shot with four arrows that caused the bears death, and the angle the arrows entered the bear are consistent with it being in a tree.
“To be clear, without any hesitation, and to be as polite as possible, I conclude that [Millar’s] version of events is fabricated,” Wolf writes. “I do not find that he was in imminent peril. There were many legal things he could have done to avoid killing the sow bear.”
“There was absolutely no attempt to minimize the harm caused. Mr. Millar simply wanted to kill the two bears, and that is what he did.”
Sentencing for the offences is scheduled to take place in September 2023.
“It was not a fair hunt. It was not an ethical hunt. For our purposes in this trial, I conclude and find as a matter of fact, it was not a legal hunt,” Wolf writes.
“It appears to me that Mr. Millar’s only regret is that he was caught on film and seen by two witnesses.”