Trophy Bear Bites Poachers

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Sometimes, even a dead bear can bite you. Just ask Cody Rollins, 22, of New Plymouth and Justin Rollins, 21, of Weiser, who learned that lesson the hard (and expensive) way.

It all started on April 20, 2002, when the two men – who are cousins – went black bear hunting in the Idaho City area with four other companions and a pack of seasoned bear-hunting hounds. The six men agreed in advance that any bear treed would be shot and tagged by one of the other four in the group. Coming upon fresh bear sign, the hounds were soon hot on the trail of a black bear. At one point during the pursuit, Cody Rollins caught a glimpse of the bear and shot it with a .22 revolver, a firearm that is illegal to use for big game hunting because of its small caliber.

Later in the pursuit, the bear was treed and several members of the party shot the bear, including Cody Rollins with his .22 revolver. The wounded animal tumbled from the tree; Rollins shot it again with his .22 pistol. It was only after closer examination that the group realized what they had. The bear was large, very large. At 350 pounds and six feet in length, it was likely a bear for the record books.

That’s when things started to get ugly.

Contrary to the earlier agreement, Cody Rollins decided to place his bear tag on the animal, a decision that caused much consternation among the other members of the hunting party unrelated to Rollins.

While both Rollins’ stayed behind to skin the bear, the other four men took the hounds and hiked to their vehicles. Cody and Justin appeared sometime later, bear hide and head in hand, but without the carcass. When the two men declared that they’d decided to leave the carcass at the kill site to waste, tempers flared. After a short argument, several members of the hunting party left.

The following evening, the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline received an anonymous tip regarding a bear poaching case. The tip was quickly forwarded to Fish and Game officers who found the ungutted bear carcass the following day. A field examination yielded two .22 caliber slugs imbedded in the carcass.

Phone calls by officers to Cody and Justin Rollins in the days that followed were not returned by either man.

Two days after the bear was killed, Cody Rollins left the bear hide at Payette taxidermist Ron Hall’s shop for tanning. Finding no metal Fish and Game bear tag attached, Hall concluded that the hide had not been checked in at a Fish and Game office as required by law. He contacted the department and made a report; he also notified department personnel that he had found a .22 caliber slug in the hide. Fish and Game officers seized the bear hide and head as evidence in the case.

Shortly thereafter, both Cody and Justin Rollins were cited for possession of an unlawfully taken black bear and for waste of the bear carcass.

On January 13, 2003, the two men appeared before Boise County Judge Patricia Young. Prior to sentencing, Judge Young reminded both men that hunting in Idaho is not a right, but a privilege, a privilege that can be lost as a result of poor choices. “When people go hunting,” Judge Young added, “they must abide by the Fish and Game rules and regulations.”

Cody Rollins pleaded guilty to possession of the unlawfully taken bear and was ordered to pay $757 in fines and penalties. He was also sentenced to 90 days in jail (80 suspended) and two years probation. Perhaps most damaging, he received a one-year license revocation which includes a clause forbidding him to accompany another hunter – including anyone running hounds during a pursuit-only season – for that one-year period.

Justin Rollins pleaded guilty to the waste of a black bear and was ordered to pay $757 in fines and penalties. He was also sentenced to 30 days in jail (30 suspended), ten days of community service and two years probation.

Several officers from two agencies worked together to bring the poachers to justice. Randy Costner, Andy Creech and Tom Patterson, all from the Payette County Sheriff’s office, provided invaluable assistance to Fish and Game officers Dan Hislop, Jon Hunter, Charlie Justus, Shane Liss and Bill London.

Plans call for the illegally-taken bear hide to be tanned and displayed in Fish and Game’s CAP trailer. The trailer will be traveling around the state throughout the spring and summer months.