U.S. celebrity waterfowl hunter pleads guilty to federal wildlife charges
By: John Cotter, The Canadian Press
EDMONTON - An American celebrity hunter has pleaded guilty to federal charges including causing unnecessary pain and suffering to a bird.
Environment Canada laid 10 charges against Jeff Foiles in January under the Migratory Birds Act and the Criminal Code. Foiles, who makes commercial videos of his hunting trips, pleaded guilty Wednesday to six of the charges in an Edmonton court.
The charges included shooting more than his daily limit of ducks and geese during hunting trips in Alberta between 2004 and 2007. He was also accused of failing to immediately retrieve migratory game birds he had shot and failing to immediately kill birds he had wounded.
During one of the videotaped hunts, Foiles, who is from Pleasant Hill, Ill., is seen holding up a wounded duck on camera, abusing the bird by wrenching its neck and manipulating its head so the duck is looking at him.
"Mr. Foiles slaps the bird's head a couple of times," reads the agreed statement of facts in the case.
"Playing to the camera, Mr. Foiles opens the wounded ducks moth several times and makes 'quacking' sounds. Mr. Foiles moves off camera and kills the duck."
A wildlife expert testified that the duck was conscious, alive and suffering extreme pain and stress while it was being handled by Foiles. Dr. Karen Matchin also testified that birds experience pain similarly to humans and mammals.
During another hunt, Foiles is seen laughing on a video as he manipulates a wounded duck, whacking it in the head with a duck call. He then places his fingers over the bird's nostrils and holds its beak closed, asking "Is this how you want to die?"
The cameraman is heard urging Foiles to kill the duck in a tone that suggests he doesn't think what is happening is funny. Foiles abuses the duck for more than four minutes before killing it.
Foiles sells the videos under the brand name Fallin' Skies. One of the slogans used to market the series says: "It's not exactly the sky that's falling, but Jeff Foiles and friends do their best to make it rain waterfowl."
Foiles also faces 13 months in jail and a $100,000 fine after pleading guilty in June to violating U.S. federal wildlife laws. He is to be formally sentenced in an Illinois court on Sept. 21.
He is to be sentenced in Edmonton on the Canadian charges on Oct. 19.
Environment Canada says it worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for four years to investigate complaints made against Foiles. The evidence gathered lead to charges being laid in both countries.
Martin Sharren, vice-president of the Alberta Fish and Game Association, says Foiles gives ethical hunters a bad name.
"Unfortunately, people will look at this guy and say 'That is what hunters do'," Sharren said.
"I can't reiterate enough that this has absolutely nothing to do with
hunting. It is just out and out breaking the law."