Man who fed grow-op bears 'nervous' about risk of jail
The B.C. man who admitted to feeding dog chow to more than two dozen black bears for the last decade says he's afraid of losing everything if he's sent to jail.
Allan Piche has pleaded guilty to two counts of feeding dangerous wildlife for tending to the wild animals that visited his Christina Lake home. The tamed bears were discovered in the summer of 2010 during a police raid of a marijuana grow-op on the property.
He was in Grand Forks Wednesday for a sentencing hearing in provincial court. The charge carries a maximum penalty of $100,000 in fines and a year in jail for a first offence, but the sentence could be doubled for the second.
"It's built up and built up for so long to this point that I'm quite nervous and apprehensive of the possibilities," he told reporters outside the court.
"There's quite a large jail term involved and an extremely large fine."
After the police operation on his property last year, Piche was charged with violating the Wildlife Act and agreed to begin feeding the bears on a reduced scheduled before they went into hibernation. He promised he would stop entirely once they woke up in the spring.
But this summer, conservation officers sent in undercover operatives dressed as tourists and found that he had breached that agreement and a second wildlife charge was laid.
Piche says he's remorseful, and now he fears he'll be left with nothing.
"If they get what they want, they've driven me off my property and out of town," he said.
Conservation officers say that Piche's bear-feeding habit has had a huge impact on the area around Christina Lake. They say the bears seemed to have lost their fear of humans and were appearing on people's patios and doorsteps in search of food all summer.
"They would come on to properties and try to access food by breaking into buildings, destroying property, by tearing apart decks and things like that, and then not leave. We had a lot of bears that could not be scared off," conservation officer Dave Webster said.
So far this year, officers have killed 24 problem bears after hearing 256 complaints from the public. The previous record for the area was 56 complaints.
The judge tasked with sentencing Piche has reserved his decision until a later date.
Piche and several others also face drug charges in connection with the grow-op, where police found 2,300 plants. That trial will begin in February.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Kent Molgat