Man shoots bear in self defense, sentenced for taking claws

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  MISSOULA—A Marion man who admitted illegally transporting grizzly bear claws to Washington after shooting the bear in the Bob Marshal Wilderness in 2017 was sentenced today to three years of probation and ordered to pay $5,000 restitution to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Bryan Berg, 35, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Jan. 16, 2020, for illegal transportation of grizzly bear claws, a Lacey Act Violation.

The prosecution said in court records that law enforcement received a tip in September 2017 that Berg shot a grizzly bear, which is a threatened species, in the Hart Basin area of the Bob Marshal Wilderness in Montana. Agents flew to the scene and found a dead grizzly bear that was pushed down the mountain. The bear’s front claws had been removed.

In an interview with law enforcement officers in March 2018, Berg said he shot the grizzly bear in self-defense, which the investigation confirmed to be accurate. Berg, however, did not report the grizzly bear shooting as required by law. Berg then removed the claws and took them to Washington. 

Berg cannot legally possess or transport the claws. Berg knew that taking the grizzly bear claws was illegal and turned them over to law enforcement during the interview. Berg also provided law enforcement with photographs and video of him near the grizzly bear after the shooting.

Man pleads to selling bear parts

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IMG_0259Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to buy and sell black bear parts. So when it comes to commercial trade, you don’t have a right to bear arms.

Or bear paws. Or gall bladders.

Authorities said a Virginia Beach man knew this in 2013 when he made contacts to obtain bear gall bladders, apparently for use in traditional medicine. Turned out that one of the contacts was a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent conducting an undercover investigation into bear part commercialization, and last week the Virginia man pleaded guilty to Lacey Act charges in federal court in Asheville In connection with bear pieces from North Carolina.

According to the documents filed with the U.S. department of Justice:

(The man) illegally engaged in conduct that involved the sale and purchase and intent to sell 18 American black bear gall bladders, 16 American black bear claws, two American black bear paws and approximately 50 pounds of American black bear meat in 2014. (He) further admitted that on three separate occasions—Jan. 6, 2014, March 5, 2014, and Dec. 17, 2014—he knowingly transported or caused to be transported American black bear parts.

He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of the plea agreement, he has agreed to publish a statement apologizing for his illegal conduct.

Grizzly attack in Denali

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Clipart of A grizzly bear, but not THE grizzly bear.

Clipart of A grizzly bear, but not THE grizzly bear.

Rangers at Denali National Park are on the hunt for a young grizzly following a series of attacks that culminated in a minor biting. Takeaway lessons from the encounters: Banding together, making noise and throwing rocks works; playing dead is good once the bear attacks but not so much before the attack.

Here’s the National Park Service account:

Visitor Bitten by Grizzly Bear in Denali National Park
July 2, 2016

DENALI PARK, Alaska: A visitor was bitten and scratched by a grizzly bear on Friday evening, July 1 while hiking on the Savage Alpine Trail in Denali National Park and Preserve. Twenty-eight-year-old Fangyuan Zhou was hiking with friends when she encountered a small, asub-adult grizzly bear that bit and scratched her before fellow hikers were able to throw rocks and chase it off.

This incident occurred at approximately 7 pm on Friday evening on the west end of the Savage Alpine Trail. Zhou was hiking with two other people when she encountered the bear ¼-mile from the trailhead. Several other hiking groups were also on the four mile trail. A large group of approximately 10 people had been approached by the bear a short time before Zhou’s encounter, but they were able to scare it off by grouping together, shouting, and waving their arms. This action is exactly what the park encourages hikers to do when the have a close encounter with a bear.


Jersey bear coverup 

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 A man has pleaded guilty to whacking a New Jersey bear and trying to pass it off as a New York bear. He even went so far as to haul the entrails to stage a New York hunting scene at Sterling State Forest.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

On Oct. 5, 2012, Martin Kaszycki, 36, of Ringwood, N.J., killed a 450-pound, male, America black bear from an elevated tree stand, with a bow and arrow, out of hunting season, after setting out bait for the bear within 300 feet of the stand near his place of business in Newfoundland, all in violation of New Jersey state laws. He then drove the bear across state lines to New York, where he falsely told a New York weigh station employee that he had killed the bear in New York’s Sterling State Forest, causing the employee to record the false information on a New York state Bear Data Form.


Bear encounter at Glacier

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A Wisconsin man escaped serious injury thanks to his bear mace when he stubbled into a grizzly and her kids while hiking off trail at Glacier National Park in Montana. Fall is the time of year when bears are binging to prepare for winter hibernation, and park officials said a shortage of berries in the park is drawing bears into inhabited areas.

Hiker injured by grizzly in GlacierSept. 30, 2015

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – A hiker was injured by a grizzly bear on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, at approximately 5 pm in Glacier National Park. His injuries were not life threatening.
The 65-year male hiker from Wisconsin was hiking alone off- trail near Mt. Henkel in the Many Glacier Valley, where he surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs. The hiker was grabbed and shaken by the bear during the encounter. The man successfully deployed his bear spray, causing the bear to release him and leave the area. The hiker received puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

The man hiked back to his vehicle in Many Glacier and drove himself to the emergency room at the Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cutbank, Montana. He was treated and released later the evening of September 29, and continued on with his travel itinerary. He called Glacier National Park Dispatch to report the incident. Rangers are still investigating the incident.

According to park rangers, the bear’s response to the hiker was defensive in nature and consistent with a surprise encounter with a hiker.

Grizzly shooting ruled self defense

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Officials have decided against filing charges in a 2012 grizzly shooting at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Two elk hunters opened fire on the bear when it charged them while trying to protect a kill in November. For those keeping score, this is the first hunting-related grizzly kill since 1950 in Grand Teton. Most grizzly encounters that end in death for the bear are road kill incidents. Encounters that end bad for people are up, but haven’t been fatal.

Here’s the National Park Service account of the incident:

Investigation Results Made Public in 2012 Grizzly Bear Shooting

March 7, 2013

In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Teton National Park law enforcement rangers completed their comprehensive investigation into the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear on Thanksgiving morning, 2012 by three hunters participating in the park’s elk reduction program. As the final step in the process, the United States Attorney’s Office has determined that no criminal charges will be filed against the hunters involved in this incident.

Although Grand Teton National Park managers regret the loss of an adult male grizzly bear due to human activities, it is important to note that the hunters involved in the incident made sound decisions after their bear encounter ended. They immediately reported the situation to park authorities and fully cooperated with the ensuing investigation, which concluded that the overall encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. During that brief time, the hunters deployed bear spray and discharged firearms against the charging grizzly. Park rangers and science and resource management personnel believe that both the bear spray and bullets contacted the grizzly bear at nearly the same instant. The totality of circumstances indicated that the hunters were forced to make rapid decisions in close proximity to the bear, and they acted in self-defense. Based on the facts of the case and this determination, no criminal charges will be filed for using a firearm or taking of wildlife.

At 7:25 a.m. on November 22, 2012, two Grand Teton National Park rangers on routine patrol, and making hunter contacts at Teton Point Overlook, reported hearing five gun shots in less than 5 seconds; the first two shots were followed in rapid succession by three more. At 7:32 a.m., a woman called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report that her husband and sons had been charged by a grizzly bear and they shot at the animal. She also reported that they were in the process of hiking out from the location where the shooting occurred, and she informed the dispatcher that no people were injured.

Park law enforcement rangers and wildlife biologists responded and began a systematic investigation into the incident. Rangers met with the hunting party and all three men fully cooperated with the investigation. The three hunters (ages 48, 20 and 17), all from Wyoming, had permits to participate in the elk reduction program at Grand Teton National Park. All three carried bear spray as required for this wildlife management program.

According to interviews, the hunting party left the parking area at Schwabacher Landing at first light and had just entered into a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, slightly north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook, when the oldest of the group first noticed the bear. Although he tried to scare the bear off, it began to charge the group from 42 yards away. One member of the group described the grizzly bear as moving “like a cat,” incredibly fast, snapping tree branches, and moving very low to the ground.

All three hunters had bear spray readily accessible. The oldest member of the group immediately began deploying his bear spray while the two younger hunters raised their rifles. When the grizzly bear came within 10 feet of the young men, they both fired shots. Three bullets impacted the grizzly-one on the back and two in the head-and immediately dropped the animal to the ground. During the investigation, a partially consumed and cached elk carcass was discovered 50 yards away, leading park biologists to conclude that the bear was defending its food source. The fatally injured male bear weighed 534 pounds and was estimated to be 18 to 20 years old.

Since the elk reduction program began in 1950, this is the first grizzly bear killed by hunters in Grand Teton National Park. The largest source of known grizzly bear mortalities in Grand Teton have actually resulted from vehicle collisions, with a total of five grizzlies killed on park roads during 2005-2012 alone. To date, encounters between humans and grizzly bears that resulted in injuries to people are relatively uncommon. However, during the last 20 years as the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and regained formerly occupied habitat (including in Grand Teton National Park) bear maulings have increased. Grand Teton has documented six attacks since 1994 when a jogger was mauled on the Emma Matilda Lake trail. Other maulings occurred in 2001, 2007 and 2011. A mauling also occurred in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in 1997. None of these bear attacks resulted in fatal injuries to humans.

Bear problems in the land of Dinosaurs

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At Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado, authorities had to take action against a troublesome bear after repeated trips into campgrounds to snatch people food. The bear had touched sleeping campers in the past and began helping itself to meals while campers yelled to scare it off.

Below are the details from the National Park Service:
Aggressive black bear killed after numerous incidents in Dinosaur’s Gates of Lodore campground Date: June 4, 2012

Dinosaur, Colo. – An aggressive black bear that was conditioned to human foods and habituated to people was shot and killed by Dinosaur National Monument staff in the park’s Gates of Lodore campground on Sunday, May 27, according to National Park Service officials.

The male bear, which showed up in the campground late last summer, had demonstrated no fear of people and posed a threat to the safety of park visitors. It took food from campsites and the Green River boat launch area even as park visitors tried to scare it away. It even approached and touched campers sleeping on the sandbar near the river. The Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife made several unsuccessful attempts to trap the bear for relocation last summer and fall.

A few weeks ago, the same bear – identifiable by distinctive color markings – returned to the campground and tried to break into the ranger residence. Colorado Wildlife staff again set up a trap near the campground, and the decision was made that if the bear continued to threaten public safety, it would be destroyed. Late in the afternoon on May 27, the bear entered two campsites and stole food as campers yelled at it and tried to scare it away. After a park ranger observed the bear showing no fear of people and remaining in the area, he shot and killed the bear.

Park visitors are reminded to store food, garbage, camp coolers, and other items that can attract bears in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.

Although visitors to Dinosaur National Monument may not think of the park as “bear country,” frequent sightings confirm black bears do live in the monument. Hikers are encouraged to be alert for their presence and report bear sightings as soon as possible at a visitor center or ranger station. (6.8.12)

Roadkill report: Bear at Grand Teton

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(NOTES: Originally published June 27, 2012)

We find the National Park Service roadkill reports interesting, so there will be a few of these drifting in on Assorted Skullduggery over the next week. As you will see, park officials take this stuff seriously. Our first installment is about a bear that was hit Thursday. Below is the NPS release:

Investigation Reveals Details about Collision between a Vehicle and Grizzly Bear
Date: June 22, 2012
An ongoing investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers, with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol, has clarified the circumstances around a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young male grizzly bear on June 21. The driver of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man, sustained minor injuries and his sedan incurred significant damage.

The preliminary investigation has determined that a southbound vehicle slightly swerved to avoid a young grizzly bear that was trying to cross the highway. That unexpected maneuver caused the northbound vehicle to also swerve, over correct, and veer off into the sagebrush on the west side of Highway 26/89/191. At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear-the animal was not struck on the road surface. The vehicle came to rest about 80 feet off the road. Findings from the accident scene reconstruction suggest that neither vehicle was speeding at the time of the incident. The daytime speed limit on this highway is 55 mph.

The young bear was still breathing when park rangers arrived at the scene, but it died shortly after. Grand Teton National Park biologists removed the carcass and took hair and tissue samples as well as a tooth, which determines the age of the bear. Biologists will submit a hair sample for DNA testing to determine whether this bear is related to identifiable grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team conducts research on grizzly bears throughout the 22-million-acre GYE as part of a long-term effort to monitor the population. The hair sample will be matched with available data collected by this interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists. The team has obtained data on grizzlies through biological samples and radio-collar tracking since 1973. The team is composed of representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

This is the first bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. However each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal.

In the past six years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include: 2006, one black bear; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene; 2011, two black bears, according to the National Park Service.

These encounters between vehicles and bears — among other wildlife accidents — serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife, or those viewing wildlife, along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits-especially at night-can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads. (6.27.12)

Mounds Hike

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View of the Mississippi River and train tracks north of Marquette, Iowa, from the Effigy Mounds National Park trail.
Over the weekend, we headed to Effigy Mounds National Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. The mounds themselves weren’t that interesting, most of them were no taller than knee high. But the hike was good and the views were spectacular.
We hit the Little Bear Mound trail loop, which started right next to the visitor center. The first leg was a climb up to the top of the cliffs. I was surprised that our 4 year old walked most of the way herself.Wildlife encountered in the area included hawks and frogs.

We rounded out the day with dinner outside on McGregor’s main street and a geocache in Marquette.