Reno, Nev. (AP) – A gun safety instructor who bagged the first
bear killed in Nevada’ first-ever bear hunting season admitted
Monday that he did so illegally with the help of bait.
Timothy Kawelmacher, 55, pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor
counts of unlawfully baiting a trap for the purpose of killing a
big game animal. He was ordered to give up the bear meat, hide,
head and claws.
Judge Jack Schroeder of Reno Justice Court also ordered
Kawelmacherto pay a $500 civil penalty and $230 in additional fines
and fees. He gave Kawelmacher two weeks to turn the bear’s remains
over to state wildlife officials – “all the way from the toe nails
to the snout,” the judge said.
Kawelmacher had faced a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail
and fines and fees totaling as much as $3,274.
The Reno businessman and certified firearm safety instructor,
who said he has trained thousands of gun owners in Washoe County
over the years, originally pleaded not guilty. He said he
misunderstood the law.
“I have hunted responsibly my entire life,” Kawelmacher said.
“It is not my nature to skirt, disobey or find ways around the
“The very thought I handled my bear hunt in any way that was
considered illegal is irreprehensible,” he said, adding that the
reason he hunts for bear, mule deer and elk is for “the very best
all-natural meat on the planet.”
Kawelmacher said he baited an area in the Sierra foothills just
west of Reno in August with apples, bacon grease and anise oil –
which smells like licorice – while scouting for bears in the weeks
leading up to the Aug. 20 opening of the black bear hunting season.
Kawelmacher told the judge he didn’t realize at the time that made
it illegal for him to later kill one.
“I never intended to bait an individual bear,” he said.
Mike McCusker, the Nevada Department of Wildlife game warden who
led the investigation, said Kawelmacher had set up cameras at three
locations in the hills south of Verdi and Interstate 80 near the
“His understanding was, that was not hunting them but tracking
them,” McCusker said. “But he did go back to that location to
Washoe County Assistant District Attorney Chris Hicks said
Kawelmacher cooperated in the investigation and that without the
assistance, it may have been difficult to prosecute him.
“With crimes like these on public lands, there is so much land
and so few game wardens that often times it is like a needle in a
haystack,” Hicks said.
“Had Mr. Kawelmacher not been so cooperative, we probably would
have been asking for more” punishment, Hicks added. “I know he’s
not happy about having to give up his bear.”
Schroeder praised him for having the courage and “profound
humility” to admit his mistake.
Rob Buonamici, the state’s chief game warden, said he thought
officials had gone “the extra mile” with the mandatory
indoctrination to explain the rules and regulations for the state’s
first bear hunt.
“We made it clear if they violated the rules, they would
probably be in the limelight and not in a positive way, and that
has proven to be true,” he said.
“The message we want to send is that at the state of Nevada’s
Department of Wildlife, we take our laws and regulations