Sunday, August 09, 2009

Dumb and dumber!

3 arrested in YouTube duck killings
The Canadian Press
August 9, 2009 YOUTUBE.COM IMAGE
A screen capture from a YouTube video that shows men firing at ducks on a Prairie pond.

Watch the video (warning: contains graphic images)

SASKATOON–Three young Saskatchewan men were arrested Saturday in connection with a recent YouTube video that showed three males using rifles to shoot ducks on a prairie pond, footage that has caused widespread public outrage.

A spokesman for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment said all three suspects, whose names have not been released, were arrested Saturday morning in a small Saskatoon-area community.

Search warrants were also carried out at two of the individuals' residences.

Gary Harrison, manager of the department's special investigations unit, said provincial and federal wildlife officers and the RCMP were also able to pin down the location where the video was shot.

"It's close to the community that the arrests were made in," he said.

The accused men, who are all in their early 20s, are to appear in Saskatoon provincial court on Monday to face a variety of charges under provincial and federal wildlife laws.

Harrison won't speculate on the motive for the shooting. He also said more investigation is needed of the area where the video was shot.

"Anybody who has watched the video knows that some birds have been killed and we really don't know how many that was," he said.

The environment ministry said the content of the video led to a significant number of calls to poacher tip lines in both Saskatchewan and Alberta – a number Harrison calls "unprecedented."
The video depicts two men firing at the ducks while the third captures their glee on camera. Police and provincial authorities launched an investigation late last week, soon after it appeared on YouTube.

Harrison said the video is very unusual.

"When I started we didn't have the Internet and YouTube. I haven't seen one that's been posted like this and had the killing of the birds in a media form like that," he said.

Brian Petrar, operations manager for Environment Canada's wildlife division, said while charges haven't yet been formally laid, officials will likely charge the individuals with offences under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act and the Saskatchewan Wildlife Act.

The large number of tips that poured in from the public helped officials make the arrests.

There were a large number of calls from individuals offering information on what they thought were the identities of the men in the video and the location of the duck killings, Petrar said.
"Working with provincial officials, we were able to focus our efforts on one particular area as a result of a number of calls. Over a couple of days of hard investigative work, we were able to pinpoint the individuals involved and where they lived," he said.

He declined to be more specific about exactly what may have led investigators to the three suspects.

But Petrar did say that information from tipsters and the fact there was a sign in the video and images of a blooming canola field in the background also helped officials track down the suspects.
The suspects were cooperative with law enforcement officials during the arrests, Petrar said.
The identities of the men charged and the community they live in would likely be made public after they appear in court on Monday, he said.

Rarely has he seen people be so blatant about posting such illegal activities on the Internet, Petrar said.

"It's not in any way related to hunting or sportsmanlike behaviour. It's just the indiscriminate and unethical killing of waterfowl," Petrar said.

The overwhelming number of tips in this case shows that the public understands the value of the wildlife resources in Canada and isn't willing to put up with animals being slaughtered, he said.
A conviction under the Migratory Birds Convention Act can carry fines of between $300,000 and six months in jail for individuals, up to $1 million – though Petrar noted that maximum penalties are rare.

Judges also have a lot of discretion in such cases and can also impose a wide range of penalties for those who are convicted of such federal charges, he said.

The video sparked widespread public anger and prompted the Toronto-based Humane Society of Canada to post a reward of $1,000 for information leading to the arrest of those shown in the Internet posting.

Society executive director Michael O'Sullivan said the organization also got calls from people who wanted to help and they were directed to tip lines in both western provinces. O'Sullivan said he is pleased to hear of the arrests.

"I would like to commend all the members of the public who provided information. Canadians take cruelty to animals very seriously and they want to help out as best as they can," he said.
All three suspects have been released from custody.


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