A Montague man who accidentally caught a river otter in a trap meant for mink and muskrats was recently acquitted of a charge under the Wildlife Conservation Act.
Owen Wyatt Jackson appeared before Chief Judge Nancy Orr in provincial court in Charlottetown for a trial on a charge of taking wildlife out of season or over the bag limit.
During the trial, Jackson testified he was checking his traps in November when he came across what he thought was a mink still alive in one of them.
The court heard the trap was designed to drown any animals caught in it, but that doesn’t always happen.
Jackson said the animal was underwater when he reached the trap so he got its head above water, hit it with a stick and put it back into the water so it would die as quickly as possible.
He told the court that was how he was trained to deal with water animals found alive in traps.
A necropsy confirmed blunt-force trauma to the head killed the otter.
Jackson said it wasn’t until after he pulled the animal all the way out of the water that he realized it was an otter.
P.E.I. doesn’t have a trapping season designated for otters, and Jackson said he tried to call a conservation officer to report the unintentional catch as soon as he got home, but there was no answer.
Jackson is a fisheries officer and later told his supervisor, who called a different conservation officer to report it.
In acquitting Jackson, Orr said nothing in the Wildlife Conservation Act says people can’t kill, hunt or trap river otters.
Orr said there was no evidence before her to indicate Jackson’s actions weren’t an appropriate way to kill the animal.
Nothing in the act’s regulations required Jackson to call a conservation or try to release the animal himself, she said.
Orr said Jackson’s training as a trapper was to kill the animal as quickly and humanely as possible.
Although Jackson’s initial belief the animal was a mink was wrong, Orr said she was satisfied it was a reasonable mistake and, on that basis, he had a reasonable defence of the charge.
Orr also said the act’s regulations don’t specify a season for otter, therefore there are no limits for it.
The Crown didn’t establish Jackson killed the otter in any manner other than those set out in the regulations, she said.