Report from California
A Shasta County, California man faces sentencing August 16 on a mix of felony and misdemeanor charges that followed his arrest 11 months ago for keeping a black bear confined inside a hot, steel culvert trap pending arrival of the archery bear hunting season.
On the eve of his trial, the 48-year-old man pleaded guilty to all charges pending against him, including felony counts of animal cruelty and being a felon in possession of a firearm. Misdemeanor Fish and Game Code charges covered illegal take and possession of a bear and take of a bear within 400 yards of bait.
Department of Fish and Game wardens used a citizen tip and two days of intense investigation to locate the caged bear sweltering without water inside the feces-laden trap near a mountain cabin the man occupied north of Shasta Lake. Wardens gave the bear water, turned it loose and staked out the trap site until the man arrived.
Warden Dan Fehr said the 200-pound bear was very lethargic and remained inside the trap for several minutes after wardens opened one end. Fehr said wardens pounded on the closed end of the trap without success before the animal finally ran into the woods.
Fish and Game said wardens had received vague tips about a similar situation in past years, but had been unable to get enough information to find the trap. The anonymous callers this year said the bear was being held so it could be killed when hunting season arrived.
Division of Wildlife officers charged two convicted poachers from Texas with numerous wildlife violations in Colorado. On Monday, October 11, Officers Ron Arant and Ron Velarde arrested a 30-year-old man from Buna, Texas, and a 32-year-old man from Vidor, Texas in Uniweep Canyon, 20 miles south of Grand Junction.
Both men were charged with illegal possession of a desert bighorn sheep ram, illegal possession of a buck mule deer and illegal possession of a bull elk. The wildlife officers also confiscated two stolen All Terrain Vehicles, a stolen camper-trailer and six weapons. Neither suspect had purchased any Colorado hunting license this year, according to District Wildlife Manager Arant. Colorado's legal deer and elk rifle hunting seasons opened on Saturday, October 9. "We also charged them with loaded firearms in a vehicle and hunting without licenses," Arant said.
The officer said the desert bighorn ram was apparently shot and killed in Uniweep Canyon along the scenic byway that runs from U.S. Highway 50 south of Grand Junction, to the small hamlet of Gateway, on the Dolores River near the Utah border. The bull elk and mule deer were allegedly shot and killed in Unit 61 on the Uncompahgre Plateau, a high-quality hunting area along the Colorado/Utah border south of Uniweep Canyon that is totally limited to participation.
Both men bonded out of Mesa County Jail on Tuesday, October 12, after spending the night in jail. Arant said the two now face "huge fines for poaching our wildlife." He explained the two were charged under the "Sampson Law" for poaching the desert bighorn ram. There is a $25,000 trophy surcharge' for poaching a bighorn sheep in Colorado. That fine is the result of Colorado's Samson Law, which came about as the result of a poacher shooting a 1,000-pound bull elk near Estes Park a few years ago. The measure places mandatory fines on top of existing penalties whenever a trophy animal is poached.
"The Samson Law is a valuable instrument in the wildlife books. The people of Colorado have said they don't want to see their wildlife resources plundered and have taken a hard line to poaching," Arant said.
The wildlife officer said total fines on the other charges against the two men could amount to $10,000. Other charges are still pending.
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