Des rennes et des loups sont poursuivis et capturés par hélicoptère, puis quand les bêtes sont 'groguies' par le transport à cause du vent et du bruit, les riches 'chasseurs' n'ont plus qu'a tirer sur les rennes comme à la kermesse: facile et honteux
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Rich hunters used copter to stalk moose
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
MONTREAL — The moose were stalked by helicopter and run ragged until they were dazed by noise and wind. Then the beasts were picked off by millionaire gunmen as easily as plastic ducks lined up at a carnival booth.
Even in the pitiless world of game poaching, where deer are fatally frozen in headlights or shot for fun from pickup-truck windows, this example of poaching was as brazen as it was brutal, officials say.
Quebec wildlife agents are mounting cases against 19 Quebec residents after a three-year anti-poaching operation on the province's North Shore.
Poaching crackdowns aren't exceptional in Quebec -- officials announced one yesterday against about 25 deer and caribou hunters in the Eastern Townships area -- but the operation that allegedly unfolded around a hunting-and-fishing reserve north of Baie-Comeau has dismayed even seasoned wildlife agents.
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Picture taken by wildlife agents in Quebec’s North Shore region during the fall show a helicopter carrying a moose allegedly shot by poachers. (Quebec Ministry of Natural Resources and Wildlife)
"We're talking about wealthy people," said Rénald Roy, director of the regional wildlife protection office on the North Shore.
"Most of them are millionaires," he said.
"It's scandalous. They could just leave the animals alone and spend their money on a beach holiday.
"But their fun is killing game. It's not hunting. It's bagging a moose to impress their friends."
It can take a law-abiding hunter a week to track and kill a single moose. The North Shore group, apparently short of time but not money, killed 10 moose in three days, officials said. Over the past three years, they bagged 30 in all.
The group faces charges on 70 alleged violations ranging from harassing an animal to hunting without a permit, and could pay a total of $255,000 in fines. Officials seized moose meat from a series of mostly upscale homes across the province last Wednesday; agents also seized a $1.5-million helicopter from a company in the town of Alma.
Wildlife officials say they will release the names of the 19 after the file has been transferred to the Quebec Justice Department next month.
The principal shareholder of the hunting reserve says he knows nothing about the alleged poaching and wasn't there at the time.
"I don't hunt," said Bernard Cardinal, a physician who lives on Montreal's West Island. He said he flies his seaplane to the reserve to fish. "I'm shocked by what happened. It isn't right."
The shooting party had a set modus operandi, Mr. Roy said. They gathered at the Lac Matonipi hunting-and-fishing outfitting lodge during the fall moose-hunting season, which begins in September. Then, one or two at a time, they headed out by helicopter to scout for moose.
Once one was located, the helicopter would touch down and let the shooter disembark. The helicopter then pursued the animal and, flying low, used gusts from the propeller to drive the animal toward the hunter, Mr. Roy said. The noise left the animal confused.
"The moose is practically hypnotized," Mr. Roy said. "It didn't stand a chance."
After the animal was felled, the shooter wrapped a nylon cable around its neck and hooked it up to the helicopter to be transported to the main encampment, Mr. Roy said.
The process went on the same way for three years, officials said. But this year, wildlife officers in camouflage surreptitiously snapped photos of the operation from hideouts in the woods.
Although transporting an animal carcass by helicopter isn't illegal, hunters rarely do it because of the cost. Helicopter service can cost about $600 an hour.
The hunting party apparently didn't limit its prey to moose. Members also allegedly trapped wolves by placing meat on hooks from trees, and the animals died from having the hooks trapped in their palates, or after swallowing them. The party also trapped three black bears in cages, Mr. Roy said.
Among those facing prosecution are one of the shareholders of the Lac Matonipi reserve, as well as an owner of the helicopter company, Panorama Helicopters. The company did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Most members of the party were friends or shareholders in the hunting reserve, Mr. Roy said, and it is not clear whether anybody paid for a shooting excursion.
"They're friends," he said. "They felt that the way you go hunting when you don't have time is by helicopter. Then they'd bring back the antlers to Montreal and Quebec City and show off the antlers, and tell their friends they went hunting."
Quebec issues 7,000 to 9,000 poaching violations a year for everything from fish to big game. Despite the presence of roughly 500 full- and part-time wildlife protection officers in the province, the problem isn't easing and penalties haven't kept up with inflation.
"For some, poaching is like a drug," said Paul Legault, a veteran wildlife protection officer and the president of the Quebec wildlife agents' union.
"They see game and they'll start to shake, like an alcoholic. They just have to kill the animal, and they'll just try to skirt the law to avoid getting caught."
Poachers are getting more sophisticated, deploying everything from night-vision glasses to global positioning systems and all-terrain vehicles. What distinguished the North Shore group was their wealth, said Mr. Legault, who was familiar with the case.
"We're dealing with millionaire poachers. They didn't have a lot of time, so they used a helicopter. They had the means to speed up their catch."
Wildlife officials have spoken to 18 members of the North Shore shooting party, while one was in Florida as of yesterday and has not yet been met.
Aside from those killed by poachers, 18,000 moose were felled legally by hunters in Quebec this year, leaving the province with 115,000 of the animals.