Undercover Operation Nets More Than 100 State Charges

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It is the mission of the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) to manage wildlife populations. One component of that is to enforce seasons, bag limits and other wildlife laws. As hunting season approaches, Virginians can enjoy strong populations of bear and deer, largely due to management efforts by wildlife biologists and enforcement by game wardens.

This week, special agents with VDGIF concluded a two-year undercover investigation into bear poaching and other violations that resulted in 115 state charges placed against 20 people. The violations took place in seven counties in Virginia: Alleghany, Botetourt, Craig, Franklin, Hanover, Montgomery, and Patrick. Charges were placed on residents of Alleghany, Bedford, Botetourt, Franklin, Lynchburg, Montgomery and Roanoke.

Virginia charges included baiting of bears; hunting bears over bait; hunting bears out of season; possession of illegally taken bears; trespassing; and possession and sale of untaxed alcohol. In Virginia, hunters may take one bear per license year. Virginia law specifically prohibits baiting bears in part because of the problems that accompany the practice of feeding bears. The Board of Game and Inland Fisheries banned unauthorized feeding of bears in 2003. Information about seasons and legal methods is available on the Department's Web site at www.dgif.virginia.gov and published in the annual regulation booklet distributed free of charge.

As part of the take down, game wardens executed two search warrants in Franklin County and seized four carcasses from bears that were killed illegally in North Carolina. In addition to the Virginia charges, 80 state charges were placed in North Carolina.

Game wardens with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries executed search warrants and made arrests with assistance from agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control, and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. Franklin County deputies also assisted.

The case was initiated by a citizen who reported illegal activities to the Department. Anyone who observes illegal or suspicious activities related to wildlife should report it to the VDGIF Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.