Minnesota man guilty of baiting, killing bear
ASPEN An out-of-state hunter pleaded guilty Monday to three misdemeanors connected to the baiting and killing of a bear.Craig Miller, 44, of Little Canada, Minn., pleaded guilty to unlawfully killing a black bear, failing to dress or care for the meat, and using bait to kill a bear. As part of a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped a felony charge of willful destruction of big-game wildlife.Miller was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation, loss of hunting privileges for five years and fines of $5,300.Miller used a bow and arrow to kill the bear on Sept. 1, the day before bowhunting season started. He was charged with the crimes after he went to a Colorado State Patrol office to get the hide and head sealed, which state law requires.When the Colorado Division of Wildlife investigated, it found the meat was wasted. Hunters must use the meat from a hunt, and baiting is strictly prohibited, according to the agency. Hunters illegally killed eight bears – five male and three female – in 2006.Dog food, used for baiting, was at the site. Division officials also saw signs that the bear had been killed before the official start of hunting season.”[Miller] had a license to hunt bear with a bow and arrow,” said defense attorney John Van Ness. “His family wanted him to come home. … He took some shortcuts, including setting out bait.”Van Ness explained that Miller, an avid hunter since age 14, did not know leaving meat in the field was illegal.”So what?” asked District Judge Chuck Buss, cutting Van Ness off. “Kill the bear for the claws and the head?”Buss later imposed the unusual requirement that Miller donate $500 to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in lieu of community service.Miller, a sales manager at a pharmaceutical company, said the loss of hunting licenses for the next five years would affect him greatly. He said he now would not be able to take his two kids, ages 13 and 11, hunting.”In our house, we do hunt,” he said. “It’s woven into the fabric of our lives. Loss of hunting privileges is very sad. … I apologize for the crimes I did.” Miller originally faced permanent loss of hunting privileges and a fine of up to $20,000 had he been convicted of the felony.Miller killed the bear in the area of Prince Creek Road south of Carbondale, in the wildlife management district that includes most of Pitkin County. The archery season for bears ran from Sept. 2-23. There are five, week-long rifle seasons that begin Sept. 8, and the last one ends Nov. 18. A resident bear-hunting license costs $41, and a nonresident license costs $251.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org
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