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Survivalists Face Criminal Charges Over YouTube Series Shot in National Park

TV and YouTube survival stars Gregory Ovens and Zachary Fowler are on the hook for allegedly hunting, fishing, and illegally lighting fires in Banff.

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Two survivalists who competed on Alone are facing more than $100,000 each in fines after they allegedly fished, hunted, and gathered rare plants in Banff National Park while shooting a YouTube survival challenge in 2019.

Parks Canada has charged Gregory Ovens and Zachary Fowler with illegally catching Yellowstone cutthroat trout, hunting and discharging a firearm in a park, damaging and destroying natural objects, illegally making fires, and using a drone inside a national park without a permit.

Ovens and Fowler first met in Patagonia in 2016 while  filming the third season of the History Channel series Alone. Ovens, from British Columbia, made it 51 days before having to tap out with hypothermia. Fowler, of Maine, survived 87 days without human contact to win the season and its $500,000 prize.

The pair’s offenses allegedly took place while they were filming a 30-day survival challenge for YouTube, which required them to catch their own food. In an interview with the CBC, Ovens admitted that the pair occasionally crossed into the park to fish at Leman Lake. While both had fishing licenses, Ovens, who plans to dispute the charges, says they weren’t aware the park had switched to catch-and-release a few years ago.

“We’re not denying that we were there doing these things,” Ovens told the broadcaster. “I mean, it’s obvious in the videos, but it’s just the principle that they don’t do anything to let the public know when they change the rules.” He also denies hunting in the park, though he’s paid more than $1,200 to settle other charges of cutting down trees and shooting gophers.

Ovens faces up to $140,000 CAD in fines, equivalent to just under $110,000 USD. There is currently an active arrest warrant out for Fowler over the charges. 

Ovens collected the videos he took during the challenge into a nearly two-hour movie on his YouTube channel; it currently has 12 million views. Fowler’s videos of the challenge have more than two million views in total. Ovens told the CBC that one of their viewers contacted Parks Canada about their alleged violations.