Green Bay farmer will fight four federal, provincial wildlife charges

Says he had permission from MNRF minister to shoot nuisance birds

GREEN BAY—It may have taken four charges to be levelled against him by a Manitoulin conservation officer (CO), but Green Bay farmer Paul Skippen is happy that the plight of the farmer and the damages they constantly incur from wildlife, with no compensation from any level of government, may finally be heard, even if in a court of law.

At every opportunity, Mr. Skippen, also a councillor for the Northeast Town, raises the issue of the lack of compensation for farmers who lose thousands of dollars in crop damages because of wildlife, including conversations with the ministers of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Agriculture and Food themselves. It was during one such encounter at the Ontario Goods Roads Association/Rural Ontario Municipal Association joint conference that Mr. Skippen, along with fellow Northeast Town councillor and Green Bay farmer Bruce Woods, chatted with former MNRF Minister David Orazietti who, according to Mr. Skippen, asked the pair “I don’t understand why you just don’t shoot them (referring to the nuisance birds)—you’re a farmer, you have a right to protect you property.”

From this point on, Mr. Skippen has not applied for the necessary permit for farmers to shoot Canada geese and sandhill cranes (the permit grants farmers kills of up to five geese and cranes each day), taking that conversation as verbal consent to protect his property.

Two weeks ago, after a flock of between 200 and 250 Canada geese landed in his fields, Mr. Skippen began a daily tirade of trying to scare the geese off: chasing them with a tractor, honking his horn and yelling and firing warning shots overhead. The farmer drove his truck to one of his further fields (the former Gammie farm), parked alongside the road, stepped out of his truck, loaded the gun and, from the roadway’s shoulder, shot into his field, killing one goose, he explained. “It was so wet, and the property was already so damaged, that I left it,” he said of the goose. “The geese cost me $10,000 in crop damages.”

The next day, he said, he received a knock at the door from CO Kyle Wood and was subsequently charged.

Mr. Skippen was charged with shooting a goose out of season and for leaving it on his property.

Following the charge, he got the necessary permit and has since killed another goose, which has been spotted by motorists travelling the Bidwell Road hanging from a tripod as a gruesome warning to other birds.

The farmer said he has been raising this issue with his area COs for some time and asked CO Wood to come speak to him about the problem over one year ago. “He never showed up,” he said.

Mr. Skippen plans to appeal all four charges—unlawfully hunting a migratory bird outside the open season, failing to immediately make every reasonable effort to retrieve a migratory bird, unlawfully discharging a firearm in the travelled portion of a right of way for public vehicular traffic and knowingly making a false statement to a conservation officer—when he appears in court on July 2 at 9:15 am in Gore Bay. He says he did not shoot from the roadway, but rather the road’s shoulder area, and did not mislead the CO, claiming people are allowed to shoot from the roadway’s shoulder into the property on which they have permission to hunt (a law specific to Northern Ontario).

In the same conversation with the former minister, Mr. Skippen explained to him that farmers who rent out their land to other farmers to pasture their livestock get paid to do so. If the government owns the animals (the deer or birds) then why don’t they pay the farmers compensation for feeding these animals, Mr. Skippen asked the then-minister. The minister replied that the government doesn’t actually own the animals. “Then why do you charge to hunt them?” Mr. Skippen persisted. The minister then, according to the farmer, deferred to his secretary who replied “We don’t own them, we manage them.”

“Well, can you manage to get them off my property?” Mr. Skippen asked.

The farmer said he believes he was within his rights to kill the goose, to protect his property.

“I had to do something,” he added. “It’s not fair to lose that kind of money.”

Mr. Skippen is hoping to have a large contingent of Island farmers come to his July 2 court date in Gore Bay in support of his cause.