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Bear poachers from Ohio nabbed and arraigned in West Virginia

October 28, 2009 |  9:55 am

Officers pose with black bears that were killed illegally and discovered as part of an investigation in West Virginia.

Poachers of wildlife seem to be making headlines every day somewhere in the country, tarnishing the image of legitimate hunters.

The latest story involves eight Ohio residents who traveled to West Virginia to carry out their dirty deeds, which involved illegally baiting black bears to a specific site and shooting them from elevated camouflaged stands.

They were apprehended after a long investigation by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources conservation officers and Wildlife Resources personnel.

“This group of hunters, all of whom were residents of Ohio, had been participating in this type of illegal activity for a period of several years,” said Capt. Michael Waugh of the Division of Natural Resources' District 3 office in Elkins. “They had purchased their bait, which consisted of donuts and corn, from multiple out-of-state vendors. The bait was then hauled into the area by truck and distributed to the bait sites using all-terrain vehicles. This out-of-state purchase and interstate transport of the bait is believed to have been an effort on the part of the poachers to conceal the quantities of bait, the purposes for which it was being purchased, and to avert suspicion in the areas they were baiting.”

Investigators uncovered seven baited shooting sites in Nicholas County. The alleged culprits -- two have yet to be arraigned -- were arrested at a cabin used as a base camp and at shooting sites. Two large adult black bears (pictured) and large quantities of bait were seized at the base camp. Two other bears had reportedly been transported out of state, and a request for assistance in recovering these animals has been made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under provisions of the Lacey Act.

Black bear parts -- especially gallbladders, which are coveted as medicinal or as an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world -- are often sold by poachers on the black market.

Six of the men were arraigned and fined more than $2,000 apiece and given 100-day jail sentences that were suspended contingent upon payment of fines.

The officers are to be commended, but the penalties do not seem severe enough considering the apparent scope of this poaching operation.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Officers pose with black bears that were killed illegally and discovered as part of an investigation in West Virginia. Credit: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources