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Teen sentenced for killing bear

June 01, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A 17-year-old Hancock boy got a lesson on hunting and nature Wednesday after he admitted in Washington County juvenile court that he shot a mother black bear in January, which caused the deaths of her three infant cubs.

The boy admitted to one count of killing a black bear during a closed season. He originally was charged with four counts - one for the sow he shot and three for her cubs - all found dead Jan. 26 in their den in the Woodmont Natural Resource Management Area east of Sidling Hill and west of Hancock.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III, sitting in juvenile court, told the boy, "Hunters understand nature and the beauty of creatures. They're hunting the outdoors not for the kill, but for the experience of nature. For the real hunter, a kill is secondary."

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Holding photographs of the dead sow and her cubs, Wright said in a somber tone, "It's just heartbreaking to see this happen. There's just no excuse."

Wright ordered that the boy relinquish his hunting privileges for two years and perform 100 hours of community service for the Department of Natural Resources. The boy also was ordered to serve two years of supervised probation and pay $500 to the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service.

The boy told Wright, "I'm sorry for what I did. I didn't mean to. I got startled when I seen that bear up close ..."

Following a tip, a Maryland Natural Resources Police officer found the female bear "shot once between the eyes" lying inside her den in a brushy area, Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Joseph Michael said.

When the dead sow was moved, the officer found three infant cubs that had died from exposure, "two of them in the nursing position," Michael said.

He said the sow was shot at close range with a .28-gauge shotgun, which the boy's attorney, Bruce Poole, said was an "old Stevens shotgun" that belonged to the boy's grandfather.

Michael said, "Bears at this time of the year are not in complete hibernation. They're not aggressive. They're slow."

Poole told Wright that the boy was hunting with a friend and a dog a few days before the bears were found. The dog ran to a thicket near the den and started barking, prompting the boy to kick at the brush, expecting a rabbit to run out. When he saw the bear raise her head, he panicked and shot her, Poole said.

Poole said an adult facing the same charge would be subject to a maximum penalty of up to a $1,500 fine and/or six months in jail.

Looking over the pictures, Wright said, "If this was done by an adult, that adult would be going to jail."

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