The black bear’s carcass lay off a northern B.C. wilderness back road, belly cut open, gall bladder removed.
It was late September 2014 and Li Zhu Liu’s hunting party had been in the Pink Mountain area, nearly 1,400 km north of Vancouver, for a few days.
Liu had already killed a white-tailed deer that he mistook for a mule deer. Conservation officers caught up with the Richmond, B.C., man and his two companions while investigating the dead bear.
The hunters claimed they planned to go back for the remains, but forgot where they had left them.
Officers seized Liu’s truck and rifle. But days later, Liu went to Fort St. John, about 150 kilometres south, leased another vehicle and bought another gun.
And within days, another bear — this time a grizzly — was dead.
‘Not deterred’ by arrests, seizures, charges
The case is outlined in a series of documents obtained by CBC, including a decision from the province’s deputy director of wildlife and recommendations from B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service.
They were filed with B.C.’s Environmental Appeal Board as part of Liu’s unsuccessful bid last month to appeal a ten-year prohibition from hunting in the province.
The penalty is one of the longest issued in recent years.
Det. Justyn Bell of the Conservation Officer Service wrote the 2017 report that led to the 59-year-old’s ban.
“Liu has not been deterred by his arrests, seizures, civil forfeiture of personal items or the charges he faces,” wrote Bell.
“Liu has been recorded hunting with multiple individuals, sometimes novice hunters, typically from the Asian community in the Lower Mainland. A significant licence cancellation will act as a deterrent to others who may consider engaging in similar activities.”
Liu himself wasn’t found responsible for an offence related to the black bear. One of his companions fired the shot that killed the animal and was deemed responsible for ensuring that any edible portions were removed.
But in his final decision, deputy director of wildlife Cole Winegarden included the incident as part of Liu’s “troubling pattern” of non-compliance with the B.C. Wildlife Act: “Mr. Liu is taking other unexperienced persons hunting and these persons have also committed a number of offences while in his company.”
‘Got out of the truck and shot the bear’
Winegarden said Liu violated the basic tenets of responsible hunting by shooting game out of season, failing to correctly identify species and abandoning wildlife that were shot.
The documents detail a litany of hunting offences from 2013 to 2016, including the month-long period in 2014 during which Liu and his companions killed the white-tailed deer and the black bear.
According to Bell’s report, after picking up the new truck and gun, they drove back to Pink Mountain.
They spotted a bear on a hillside as they drove.
Liu’s companion “got out of the truck and shot the bear.” He gutted and skinned the animal. Liu’s friend claimed it was a black bear — but told conservation officers he couldn’t remember where he’d left the hide.
Five days later, officers found the hide, head still attached, at a site where Liu and his friend had previously camped. The remains actually belonged to a grizzly, which the men did not have a licence to kill.
Liu’s friend took full responsibility for any offences related to the grizzly’s death, but the deputy director of wildlife found that had Liu been “more knowledgeable about wildlife in the province, he could have correctly identified the species of bear and prevented the illegal harvest.”
‘Without taking sufficient care to establish the sex’
Liu’s lawyer did not respond to a call for comment.
In addition to the 10-year prohibition, Liu also pleaded guilty in provincial court last summer to two offences dating back to October 2013: killing a cow moose out of season and hunting on private land without the consent of the owner.
According to an agreed statement of facts from that case, Liu had been on a hunting trip with two friends when they shot at a moose in a cultivated field.
They couldn’t find the carcass and left. The owners of the property later discovered a dead cow moose (a female).
A few days later, Liu’s group spotted another moose off the road “and killed it without taking sufficient care to establish the sex of the moose before shooting.”
It also turned out to be a cow moose, which was not in season to hunt.
The court fined Liu $3,000 and issued a separate hunting prohibition for two years.
Liu also voluntarily donated $8,000 to the BC Wildlife Federation.
‘He realizes that he has made many mistakes’
Liu owns a home in Richmond, but in a letter to the appeal board, his lawyer said his client has moved back to China to help with his son’s education.
But Liu still hopes to spend time in B.C. and argued that, at his “age of almost 60,” a decade-long ban “likely amounts to an effective lifetime prohibition.”
“He realizes that he has made many mistakes and has now taken serious steps to address them,” Liu’s lawyer wrote.
“He will only be returning to Canada for brief holidays. He would like to partake in recreational hunting while he returns to visit Canada.”
The appeal board rejected Liu’s plea, citing evidence from two B.C. wildlife biologists about the animals that died. One wrote that the death of even one grizzly would restrict licensed hunting opportunities for several years.
The other biologist said the loss of two female moose was a serious blow to the species.
“Moose are declining in many areas within the Peace Region, including the locations where the illegal harvest occurred in this case,” the biologist wrote.
“Moose are of particular concern to First Nations and stakeholders.”
The appeal board also noted Liu’s inability to tell the difference between a male and female moose — one has antlers. It described such knowledge as “foundational … for any person wishing to engage in moose hunting.”
The board concluded: “There was clearly a pattern of poor and unethical hunting practices by (Liu) over several years without any acceptance of responsibility until faced with serious consequences.”