OH: Hunter won’t be charged in killing of Harrison Co. bear

Massillon, Ohio – A panicked Massillon hunter was justified in
killing a black bear Nov. 29 during deer gun season and will not
face charges, the Harrison County prosecutor’s office has informed
the DNR Division of Wildlife.

“The way it appears, he was out hunting whatever he was hunting,
and a bear came running right at him,” Assistant Prosecutor Michael
B. Washington said in an interview. “He may have panicked, but he
got a heck of a shot off.”

Another factor not to file charges was the hunter reported the
shooting to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and DOW officials
right away “or we would not have known about it,” Washington said.
The bear was killed in densely wooded, hilly terrain near
Clendening Reservoir in Harrison County.

“But for the individual coming forward and submitting himself to
scrutiny, no one would have known that the bear had been killed,”
Washington wrote in a Dec. 17 letter to DOW investigators.

The DOW asked the Harrison County Prosecutor’s Office to review
their investigative findings because bears in Ohio are considered
endangered and fully protected by state wildlife laws.

The hunter, who was not identified because he wasn’t charged,
said he was tracking a deer he had seen earlier along a ridge in
thick brush on his brother’s property off Elk Run in Harrison
County when he heard rustling and pulled his shotgun into firing
position. A bear appeared from the brush, about 60 feet away,
running toward him up a hill, the hunter wrote in a statement to
DOW investigators.

“I panic (sic) and shot it, scared what might happen if I did
not,” the hunter wrote of his fear of being injured by the oncoming
225-pound bear.

An investigation revealed the bear was shot once in the head
with a 12-gauge shotgun and the animal turned and fell down the
hill. After he walked up to downed animal, “I stared at it for
about 2-3 minutes and could not believe a bear was coming out of
the brush,’ the hunter said in his statement. “I looked to make
sure it was a bear.”

The hunter said he then walked from the woods to a friend’s
property where he was advised to report the incident to the
Harrison County Sheriff’s Office.

The hunter was interviewed by Harrison County Wildlife Officer
Nick Turner at the sheriff’s office. Also assisting in the
investigation was District 3 Law Enforcement Supervisor Tom Rowan,
Field Supervisor Peter Novotny, Investigator Brett Barnes, and
Carroll County Wildlife Officer Dan Shroyer.

Officers went to the shooting scene with the hunter and found an
empty 12-gauge slug casing and the bear. The trajectory of the
hunter’s shot matched up from where the spent casing was found with
a wound in the top of the bear’s skull, investigators
determined.

The bear was likely being pushed up the steep slope while
attempting to get out of the area, investigators concluded.

“Bears have poor eyesight and unless the bear could have smelled
(the hunter),” the bear would not have known hunter was there,
Barnes wrote in his report.

The hunter told investigators he had never seen a bear
previously while hunting.

“He told me he panicked because the situation all happened so
quickly and that he felt bad about the bear being killed,” Barnes
wrote.

Officers Turner and Shroyer dragged the bear from the woods with
an all-terrain vehicle and took the carcass to District 3
headquarters in Akron. The DOW said it has an option to use the
bear’s remains for educational purposes, such as its fur or
skull.

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