Montana Man Gets 2 Months In A Federal Prison For Evidence Tampering After Killing Grizzly Bear

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An 80-year-old northwestern Montana man was sentenced Tuesday to two months in a federal prison, fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit a rifle and scope he used to kill a female grizzly bear on his property in November 2020, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Othel Lee Pearson pleaded guilty in February to felony tampering with evidence for cutting off the bear's GPS collar and throwing it in the Yaak River, removing the bear's lip tattoo and ear tag and cutting off its paws to conceal evidence of the killing, prosecutors said. He also pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for failing to report killing the bear within five days, as required by law.

The plea agreement had recommended a three-year probationary sentence and no prison time.

Grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and the Cabinet-Yaak area, which includes Pearson's former property near Troy, is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Pearson shot the bear outside his home in defense of himself and his wife, his attorneys said. They asked for the probationary sentence and an $8,000 fine.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy also ordered Pearson to serve four months of home confinement after his sentence, to be followed by three years of supervised release. The court allowed Pearson to self-report to the prison.

Prosecutors alleged the bear's claws and ear tag were hidden in a hollowed-out tree on U.S. Forest Service land near Pearson's residence and that meat from the bear was found in his freezer.