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Tofino man found guilty of killing bear cub and sow as judge rejects self-defence claim

Ryan Owen Millar has been charged with the unlawful killing of two black bears
(Westerly News file photo)

A provincial court judge has denied a man’s self defence claim in the shooting of two bears in Tofino.

Ryan Owen Millar has been found guilty of the unlawful killing of two black bears, a mother bear and young cub, on Oct. 14, 2021.

“It was not a fair hunt. It was not an ethical hunt. For our purposes in this trial, I conclude and find as a matter of fact, it was not a legal hunt,” Honourable Judge Alexander Wolf wrote in their Reasons for Judgment published on June 6. “It appears to me that Mr. Millar’s only regret is that he was caught on film and seen by two witnesses.”

During the three-day trial, a witness testified that they were visiting Tofino from Vancouver with their spouse and “enjoying watching the bears” from their Airbnb when he saw Millar shoot the two bears with a longbow and a crossbow.

“The witness told the court that he saw the accused retrieve ‘a couple of bows.’ The witness said he has “been around hunting most of his life, studied Medieval Studies, and could tell one of the bows was a “long bow,’” Wolf wrote. “He then told the court that the accused put an arrow in it and aimed at the bears. He testified that both bears were in a tree. He took a shot and hit one bear, and that bear fell out of a tree.”

The witness said he was about to yell at Millar, but before he could Millar had taken out a cross bow “to finish off the bear.”

“He told the court the second bear was still in the tree and “just looked on”. That is when the accused “loaded the long bow again, and took another shot, and the second bear fell out of the tree,” Wolf wrote.

The witness said the bear tried to run away but the accused ran after it and took another shot.”

“This is not a case where the two bears were killed accidentally,” Wolf wrote. “For example, they were not hit by a car, without any intent to harm or hurt the bear. There is clear evidence that supports an intentional application of force. There is evidence that clearly supports that there was an intention to maim, wound or kill the bears.”

Wolf also noted that the witness “didn’t see any aggressive behaviour by the bears” and was able to describe Millar’s actions “in great detail.”

“He was unshaken, absolutely unequivocal and straightforward in his testimony. He described how the sow and cub were in a tree. He was able to recount with a clear memory how the accused went inside his house, came back with a long bow and cross bow. He remembered in great detail how the accused killed the first bear, then the second bear,” Wolf wrote. “He was able to explain the sounds he heard from the ‘rustling of the leaves’ from the bears in the tree to the terrible sound of the cub as it was dying.”

He added that the witness testified that Millar had made no efforts to scare the bears away before shooting them.

The witness also recorded video evidence before calling the RCMP.

An RCMP officer who was the first on scene testified that they spoke to Millar who initially said he “didn’t know anything about” any bears being shot.

The officer then told the accused, “if you have shot a bear you should tell me,” and Millar allegedly responded that he had seen a bear and had scared it away.

Further questioning led to the accused telling the officer that he “had a haunch of meat on his property and he was worried about his dogs getting hurt.”

Millar further clarified that he had tried to scare the bear off but that it did not react, so he shot it with his bow.

The officer added that Millar claimed to have seen only one bear, not two.

A Conservation Officer also responded to the scene and testified at trial that Millar’s recounting of the events contained inconsistencies.

“He told the CO that he threw rocks at the bear but it ‘came at me,’” Wolf wrote of the officer’s testimony.

The CO testified that Millar claimed to have been worried about his livestock, recounting a duck being killed by a bear on his property weeks earlier. Millar also claimed the bear was not in a tree, but on the ground and had charged at him.

“He seemed to intentionally create the impression that the bear was a ‘problem’ bear. He used the word a couple of times and eventually said it was ‘not a good bear, just seeing it come at me like that,’” said the CO. “With respect to the incident on October 14, 2021, the accused described the experience and used very specific words. “Near death experience” was one phrase he used.”

A wildlife veterinarian also testified at trial and confirmed that the mother bear was lactating and had been shot with four arrows.

“Dr. Thacker described in detail the angles that the arrows entered the bear. At least one of the entry wounds was consistent with being shot while the bear was elevated, such as in a tree,” Wolf wrote.

“Based on her expertise she said there was likely a much smaller bear cub, weighing no more than 50 pounds, under the age of 12 months with the sow.”

Wolf added there was no evidence to suggest either bear was “in any way acting aggressively or threatening harm to person, place or thing” and that he did not believe Millar’s recollection of events.

“To be clear, without any hesitation, and to be as polite as possible, I conclude that his version of events is fabricated. I do not find that he was in imminent peril. There were many legal things he could have done to avoid killing the sow bear,” Wolf wrote.

“Furthermore, there was no excuse at all to kill the bear cub. To be clear, I find as a matter of fact that the accused killed both bears, exactly as described by (the witness). One bear was a sow and one bear was her cub. There was absolutely no attempt to minimize the harm caused. Mr. Millar simply wanted to kill the two bears, and that is what he did.”

Wolf found Millar guilty of illegally killing the two bears and sentencing will take place in September.

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Andrew Bailey

About the Author: Andrew Bailey

I arrived at the Westerly News as a reporter and photographer in January 2012.
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