On November 5, 2018, fish and wildlife officers received a report from a concerned citizen regarding the illegal killing of a grizzly bear by two individuals. The concerned citizen was also assaulted by the two individuals for gathering evidence against them.
The incident took place at a random hunting camp location in the Indian Graves Area along Range Road 532, west of Highway 22. Officers determined that just past midnight on November 3, a grizzly bear approached the suspects’ meat pole structure, 50 yards from their hunting camp. The bear fed on two low hanging deer carcasses. One of the deer carcasses was removed from the camp and the other was secured higher on the meat pole. One of the hunters at the camp also set up a trail camera so they can identify what was coming in to feed on the carcasses.
Later that evening, the grizzly bear came back to the meat pole multiple times to attempt to reach the remaining carcass. Given the time of the year, the bear was food motivated, as he was preparing for hibernation. Over a three hour period, two of the hunters focused their attention on the bear’s activity. At approximately 10:28 pm, the two individuals made the decision to shoot and kill the grizzly bear, while using the motion sensor spotlight to help see the body of the bear. When the other campers asked why the shot was fired, the suspects told them that it was just a warning shot.
The following morning, the witness who reported the incident to fish and wildlife officers found a dead grizzly bear near the meat pole site. The witness started to collect evidence from his trail cameras and take photos of the grizzly bear and vehicles in the camp. The suspects discovered the witness taking photographs and assaulted the witness. They attempted to force the witness to give up his password by threatening him with an axe. The other campers intervened and convinced the suspects to return his cellphone and let the witness go. Other campers from nearby camps also witnessed the assault.
When officers arrived at the hunting camp, they interviewed the suspects. One of them eventually confessed to his involvement in the shooting and killing of the grizzly bear. He took officers to where the carcass was dumped – in a drainage area covered up with branches in an attempt to conceal it. The bullet entry wound was through the left hind quarter of the bear, travelling through the chest area, exiting out the front right shoulder, resulting in its death.
Evidence collected through interviews, photos and video footage showed that the bear was not exhibiting any aggressive behaviour towards the individuals at any point. It also showed that neither of them made any attempts to scare the bear away or leave the camping area. There were no grounds for self-defence shooting.
On January 6, 2020, Jeffrey Edison Hambrook plead guilty for hunting out of season, assault and uttering threats in relation to property. Gary Edgar Gilson also plead guilty to unlawful possession of wildlife, theft under $5,000 and uttering threats in relation to property.
The courts gave both men a one-year conditional sentence and a three year hunting suspension. Both men were also fined a total of $22,000 for the killing of the bear and for unlawful possession of wildlife.
Any time a grizzly bear is put down in Alberta, it is our duty to investigate as they are considered threatened. If officers find evidence the bear was an immediate and imminent threat to a person, there would be no charges. It is best to be honest and report the incident right away, and if it was truly self defence, that will come out in the investigation.
Anyone who witnesses, or has information on, any illegal or suspicious hunting or fishing activity or serious public land abuse is encouraged to call the 24-hour Report A Poacher line at 1-800-642-3800 or submitting a report online at https://www.alberta.ca/report-poacher.aspx. The Report A Poacher program is a way for the public to help us protect our natural environment.