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Poaching pains PGC

Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Dave Allen with a 675-pound bear that was discovered last weekend by hikers in Nescopeck State Park. The bear succumbed to a shot from a small caliber rifle. The Game Commission is investigating the illegal killing of the bear.

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Wildlife Conservation Officer Dave Allen holds his hand next to the paw of a 675-pound bear that was illegally killed and discovered last week along a trail behind Lake Frances in Nescopeck State Park.

Chances are the 675-pound bear would’ve weighed close to 900 pounds this fall. There’s also a good possibility that, if it were shot legally by a hunter, the monster bruin would’ve qualified for the record books.

Unfortunately, thanks to a single shot from a poacher, the potential of this particular bear will never be realized.

Last Saturday, a hiker discovered the enormous dead bear along a trail behind Lake Frances in Nescopeck State Park. Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Dave Allen responded to the scene – one that no matter how many times he encounters it never makes sense.

“I’m just disgusted about it. It’s ridiculous,” Allen said. “There isn’t one good reason why this bear was shot.”

The poaching incident is still under investigation, but the details that Allen has gathered only add to the senselessness of the act.

The bear was shot once behind the right shoulder with a small caliber rifle. An examination by Game Commission personnel revealed a punctured lung and a severed artery, and Allen surmised that the bear suffered a slow, painful death.

That part was evident by the trees that were chewed and clawed by the bear around the area where it was found. Allen said the bear wasn’t dead for very long before it was discovered and the fact that it suffered for some time leads him to believe the bruin was shot somewhere and wandered into the park.

And that presents another potentially dangerous situation that fortunately didn’t occur. “A wounded bear walking around Lake Frances, which is popular with trout fishermen … that could’ve been a very dangerous situation,” Allen said.

Tim Conway, the PGC’s Northeast Region information and education supervisor, said someone could’ve shot at the bear trying to scare it from their yard where it could’ve been seeking a food source, such as birdfeeders or trash.

“I have to attribute it to someone who took a shot at the bear to scare it, hit it just right and it walked off and died,” Conway said. “It’s still illegal.”

Rather than shoot at a bear to scare it away, Conway has a better suggestion if a bruin visits your yard.

“Eliminate the food sources on your property and call us,” he said.

The Game Commission will measure the bear’s skull to determine if it would’ve made the record book, and a tooth has been pulled to determine its age. According to Conway, approximately 1 percent of all Pennsylvania’s bears reach the size of the one found dead last weekend. Those that do top 600 pounds are usually older, which makes this particular poaching incident even more troublesome.

“My first thought on this is what a waste. This animal has been around for so many years, only to have someone take a pot shot at it,” Conway said. “It’s a cruel act. It’s really sickening.”

If someone is charged in the case, they could face additional fines under the Game Commission’s “replacement cost” policy. Adopted by the PGC board in January 2009, the policy allows district magistrates to assess replacement costs for trophy animals that were poached. For a bear, that figure is up to $5,000 if it has a field dressed weight greater than 350 pounds.

While Conway said it’s hard to put a price tag on a bear such as the one found last weekend, the replacement cost provision is one that could serve as a formidable deterrent in the future.

And it’s a policy that could force whoever is responsible for the incident to pay dearly. “It’s the biggest poached bear I ever encountered,” said Allen. “By this fall this bear could’ve weighed 900 pounds and it could’ve been a record book bear had it been legally harvested by a hunter. But now we’ll never know.”

Other illegal kills

The discovery of the 675-pound bear in Nescopeck State Park last weekend is one of several large bears that have been illegally killed in the northeast in the last four years.

Sept. 2007: A 600-pound bear was shot with a crossbow in the parking lot of a restaurant in Kidder Township. No one has been charged in the incident.

Sept. 29, 2009: A 600-pound male bear was illegally killed and dumped in the State Game Lands 312 parking lot along the border of Wayne and Lackawanna counties. Game Commission officials do have a suspect in the case, but charges have not yet been filed.

Oct. 29, 2009: A bear weighing more than 300 pounds was illegally killed, the entrails removed and the carcass dumped along a road in Chestnut Hill Township, Monroe County. The case is still under investigation.

Nov. 2009: A 707-pound bear was shot over bait in Noxen Township, Wyoming County. The Game Commission charged Charles W. Olsen Jr., of Wilkes-Barre. Olsen was found guilty of unlawfully killing the bear and assessed fines totaling $6,800.

You can help

Anyone with information regarding the illegal killing of the bear found in Nescopeck State Park is asked to call the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s North Region Office at 675-1143. Tim Conway, the PGC’s Northeast Region information and education supervisor, said tips can be left anonymously. “Someone out there probably saw this bear in a backyard,” he said. “Let us know and we can get a general idea of its range and have an area to focus our investigation.”

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