Man sentenced for illegal black bear kill

The man shot and killed a black bear in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

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The badge for the Alaska State Troopers

A Florida man has been found guilty of killing and harvesting a black bear in an area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge closed to all hunting and trapping, according to a Tuesday press release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

James Connolly, 63, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was sentenced on Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Scoble to pay a fine of $8,000, forfeit the black bear hide he harvested and serve a two-year probation for violating the Lacey Act, during which he will be prohibited from hunting anywhere in the United States.

Connolly shot and killed a black bear on May 17, 2018 in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, according to court documents, where all hunting and trapping is prohibited. After killing the bear, Connolly transported the bear carcass from Alaska to a tannery in California, where it was then shipped to Connolly in Florida.

During the investigation, witnesses reported seeing remains of the black bear on Skilak Lake Loop Road, and others reported that Connolly told them of the kill while he was in the area.

Law enforcement officers conducting the investigation also matched DNA samples of the blood from the kill site with DNA samples taken from the carcass in Connolly’s possession.

Evidence collected by now-retired Federal Wildlife Canine Rex played a “vital role” in the investigation, according to the press release.

Scoble noted during the sentencing that Connolly’s actions were “particularly abhorrent” given the fact that Alaska offers many areas for the legal hunting of black bears.

The investigation was a coordinated effort from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, USFWS Office of Law Enforcement, the Florida Wildlife Commission and Federal Wildlife Officers in Alaska, Florida and North Carolina. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Cavanaugh prosecuted the case.

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