An Edmonton man has pleaded guilty to shooting a black bear in a national park and will pay a fine of C$7,500 after the judge rejected his “fear” of the predator as justification for bringing a loaded firearm on a popular hiking trail.
Serge Painchaud, 42, was this week fined for violating a hunting restriction under the National Parks Act.
Painchaud, an Edmonton-based welder, hiked the Overlander trail in Jasper national park in August 2022 with two friends, venturing out on the nine-mile hike that cuts through meadows and traces rivers to give sprawling mountain views.
On the hike, Painchaud openly carried a 20-gauge shotgun and ammunition on the trail – forbidden under Canadian law.
Painchaud soon got tired and turned back, leaving his friends to continue on the hike.
Shortly after noon, Painchaud encountered a black bear near the trail and “became scared”, according to the agreed statement of facts, viewed by CBC News.
The animal is believed to have been 30 meters from him, across a small creek. Painchaud fired a warning shot and when the bear inched closer, he fired a second at the bear, hitting it. The bear, bleeding, then rolled down a bank and ran off into the woods.
Painchaud’s friends heard the shots and called park wardens, who arrived to investigate.
“The search for the bear was very challenging due to dense forest conditions and topography,” Parks Canada said at the time. “Injured bears can be very aggressive when encountered in close quarters, so any further searches must be approached with extreme caution.”
Park wardens found two shotgun shells where Painchaud had fired the gun, as well as traces of blood.
Bear attacks are uncommon in the Canadian wild despite the high volume of human and bear interactions and fatal encounters are even rarer.
Crown prosecutor Adam Karbani called for a fine as high as C$10,000, a year long probation that would bar Painchaud from using a Parks Canada pass and a two-year prohibition on owning firearms.
Lawyer Edmond O’Neill said the defendant had no criminal record nor wildlife offences and that his guilty plea averted a trial that would have likely centred on whether Painchaud was in danger. He added his client was unaware of the ban on firearms in national parks.
Justice Rosanna Saccomani rejected the idea that Painchaud’s fear of bears bore any weight.
“[That] would apply to pretty much every single person in your situation,” she said. “We’re all afraid of bears.”