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Montana man sentenced to 2 months in prison, $10,000 fine for grizzly killing

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Posted at 7:28 AM, Jun 12, 2024

A Troy man was sentenced Tuesday after admitting to killing a grizzly bear on his property in 2020, throwing the bear’s collar in the Yaak River and cutting up the carcass.

Othel Lee Pearson, 80, was sentenced in Missoula U.S. District Court on Tuesday to two months in prison and a $10,000 fine. After prison, Pearson will be in home confinement for four months, followed by three years of supervised release, according to the Montana U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The court also required Pearson to forfeit the gun he used to kill the grizzly, a .270 Winchester bolt-action rifle with a scope, which the office said was seized from his home.

In February, Pearson pleaded guilty to two charges, one of them a felony for tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor for failing to report the killing within five days, reports the Daily Montanan.

U.S. Attorney for the District of Montana Jesse Laslovich said in a statement people who grew up in Montana know grizzlies are not just dangerous, they are also protected as a threatened species. He said the Cabinet-Yaak area is designated as a grizzly recovery zone, including where Pearson’s property is located, “which makes Pearson’s conduct even more troubling.”

“When, as here, one illegally kills a grizzly bear, and in an attempt to cover it up, cuts off the bear’s GPS collar, tosses it into the Yaak River, and butchers the carcass for disposal, a federal felony will be pursued,” Laslovich said.

After Pearson killed the sow grizzly, he cut the bear’s paws, ear tags and an identifying lip tattoo from the carcass and hid the bear’s claws and an ear tag in a hollowed-out tree near his home on Forest Service land.

Investigators found meat from the bear in Pearson’s freezer in a “shooting room” attached to his home.

“Pearson attempted to and did tamper with these identifying items to impair the criminal prosecution for failing to report taking of a grizzly bear,” the office said in a press release.

A warden found the carcass in the river days after the bear was killed and subsequently found the GPS collar, which showed the bear had died on Pearson’s property. In April 2022, a person hiking on Forest land found the discarded ear tag and claws.

The court allowed Pearson to self-report to prison.