Pa. man receives maximum penalty for killing bear

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – A Mifflin County man was sentenced recently to pay nearly $6,000 in fines and replacement costs for killing a large black bear in April that he claimed was killed in self-defense.

David Vogt, 45, of Lewistown, Mifflin County, was sentenced on Sept. 6 by District Justice Jackie Leister to pay a mandatory $800 fine for illegally killing a black bear and $5,000 replacement costs after Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers and a biologist proved he did not kill a bear in self-defense.

This marks the first time a Pennsylvania judge has issued a sentence that includes maximum penalty and replacement costs provided by law.

Evidence. Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Jeff Mock stated that both evidence derived from the scene and testimony from eyewitnesses led him to believe the bear was not killed in self-defense.

“This bear was shot on Vogt’s property,” Mock said.

“But, from all testimony gathered, no one was outside the home when the bear was destroyed. Also, forensic evidence gathered from the scene proved that the bear was not in an aggressive posture when shot.”

Game Commission officers often access both state police and federal forensic laboratories for evidence analysis during investigations of illegally-killed wildlife.

Odds of harvest. Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist, testified at Vogt’s trial that the adult male bear, which weighed 630 pounds, would have been expected to weigh more than 700 pounds prior to denning in mid- to late-November.

“Less than one percent of the nearly 45,000 bears weighed in Pennsylvania in the last 20 years obtain that size,” Ternent said.

“The odds of legally harvesting a bear of this size are about one in 39,000.

“This whole case could have been avoided had the homeowner quit feeding birds when they learned the feeder was attracting bears.

“Feeding bears is what bird feeding amounts to when bears become frequent visitors, and can cause a variety of problems.”

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