Pennsylvania Man Pleads Guilty to Bear Baiting
Charles W. Olsen Jr., 39, of Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, was found guilty of illegally killing a 707-pound bear over bait during the 2009 hunting seasons, and ordered to pay fines and restitution of $6,800, plus court costs, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Vic Rosa, of Wyoming County.
District Judge Carl Smith, of Tunkhannock, found Olsen guilty of unlawfully killing a bear, for which he was fined Olsen $1,500, and of hunting over bait, for which he fined Olsen $300. In addition, Judge Smith assessed Olsen with a $5,000 restitution penalty since the bear was considered "trophy-class," which means that it exceeded a field-dressed weight of 350 pounds.
Olsen also stands to lose his hunting and trapping privileges for at least three years.
The origins of the case began when Luzerne County WCO Cory Bentzoni became suspicious when he saw a truck loaded with pastries from a local store traveling along Route 309 in Dallas, Luzerne County.
"It was about one week from the opening of the statewide bear season, and I thought that something illegal might be underway," WCO Bentzoni said. "Being that we were so close to bear season, seeing that person drive by with an unusual amount of pastries was like watching an individual go down a row of parked vehicles testing each handle to see if it were would open. Something just didn't seem right.
"However, as 'possession of pastries' is not an unlawful offense, there was no probable cause that would have permitted me to pull him over and question him, so I did the only thing I could; I wrote down truck's license plate number, found that it was registered to Olsen and then instructed all Game Commission personnel operating bear check stations throughout the region to notify him me if Olsen brought a bear into one of the check stations."
Sure enough, on Nov. 25, Olsen brought a bear with an estimated live weight of 707 pounds into the bear check station at the Northeast Region Office in Dallas, Luzerne County. WCO Rosa was immediately contacted by the Northeast Region Office, since Olsen reportedly harvested the bear in Noxen Township, Wyoming County.
Northeast Region Land Management Supervisor Peter Sussenbach, who also was aware of the tip provided by WCO Bentzoni, approached Olsen and said, "There may be a problem with this bear." At that point, Olsen confessed he had killed the bear over a bait pile.
"What is most unfortunate is that law-abiding bear hunters in the area were robbed of the opportunity to legally harvest truly a trophy bear by fair chase means," said Northeast Region Law Enforcement Supervisor Dan Figured. "It was thanks to the quick thinking of an observant Wildlife Conservation Officer, and some basic investigative work, that helped resolve this case."
Facts from the Pennsylvania Game Commission: Cases such as this would carry increased fines and penalties if House Bill 1859, sponsored by House Game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Edward G. Staback (D-Lackawanna), is enacted. The bill was approved by the House on July 21, by a vote of 196-3. The bill was approved by the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee on Jan. 26, and presently awaits further consideration in the Senate Appropriations Committee.
Additionally, under Senate Bill 1200, sponsored by Senate Game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Richard Alloway II (R-33), if Pennsylvania were a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, defendants in cases such as this would lose their ability to lawfully hunt in other states that prohibit the use of bait. SB 1200 passed the Senate by a unanimous vote, and presently is awaiting further action in the House Game and Fisheries Committee.