• Ritchey Elliott v. Assistant Director, Fish and Wildlife Branch

    Decision Date:
    File Numbers:
    Decision Numbers:
    Third Party:


    Decision Date: September 28, 2006

    Panel: Alan Andison

    Keywords: Wildlife Act Permit Regulation – s. 5; capture permit; closed management unit; falconry; birdwatching.

    Ritchey Elliott appealed certain provisions of a permit issued to him by the Assistant Director of the Fish and Wildlife Branch, Ministry of the Environment.  The permit allowed Mr. Elliott to capture and transport a combination of up to two immature northern goshawks, cooper’s hawks, gyrfalcons, or golden eagles.  The permit also prohibited Mr. Elliott from capturing gyrfalcons in Wildlife Management Units 1-1 to 1-8, 2-4, 2-8, 6-28, and 6-29.  Mr. Elliott appealed the prohibitions with respect to Management Units 1-1 to 1-8, 2-4, and 2-8 (the “Closed Units”).

    The Assistant Director submitted that his decision balanced the interests of falconers and the bird-viewing public.  Due to the infrequency of sightings of gyrfalcon in the Closed Units, viewing opportunities should be preserved.  The Assistant Director had concerns about public relations because of an article published in the Vancouver Sun and at least 20 letters from citizens of British Columbia.  The Assistant Director further submitted that the opportunity to view live gyrfalcon in densely populated regions was of higher benefit and use than the capture of the birds by falconers.

    Mr. Elliott submitted that there is no foundation for the belief that capture of gyrfalcons in the Closed Units could lead to public relations problems.  Trapping of gyrfalcons had been allowed in these areas for the past three years, and the areas were still open for capture of other, larger, raptors.

    The Board concluded that the prohibition against capturing gyrfalcons in the Closed Units was reasonable in the circumstances.  Section 5 of the Wildlife Act Permit Regulation requires that the issuing of a permit not be “contrary to the proper management of wildlife resources.”  The question was whether the objective of preserving birds in the Closed Units to facilitate viewing by the public should have outweighed Mr. Elliott’s interest in attempting to capture a gyrfalcon.

    The Board accepted evidence that the likelihood of seeing a gyrfalcon in the wild is very low, and that any capture would reduce these chances.  Because there are significantly more birdwatchers than falconers in the Closed Units, it was not unreasonable for the Assistant Director to be concerned about the potential for complaints from birdwatchers.  The Assistant Director found a reasonable balance between the interests of the two groups by only closing those areas of British Columbia which have a dense human population.  Finally, the Assistant Director had acted in accordance with subsection 3.5 of the Procedure Manual, which provides that capture of any species will not be permitted “where such capture is determined to be destructive of other and higher benefits and uses.”

    In consideration of these factors, the Board found that the prohibitions were reasonable conditions of the permit and that there were no special circumstances warranting their removal.  Accordingly, the permit as issued was confirmed and the appeal was dismissed.