State and federal wildlife officials in North Carolina and Georgia announced last week an undercover operation that involved about 80 wildlife violators and some 980 violations.
Primary violations documented by Operation Something Bruin stem from illegal bear hunting but include an array of state wildlife and game law charges. Some suspects could also face federal charges.
The four-year investigation, the largest of its kind in recent years, targeted poachers in North Carolina and Georgia, with work in some adjacent states.
Operation Something Bruin partners also included the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.
“Operation Something Bruin documented hundreds of wildlife violations,” said Col. Dale Caveny, law enforcement chief for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “Today’s arrests bring an immediate halt to those crimes and, we hope, will make would-be violators think twice before breaking the law. Our long-term goal is to deter illegal wildlife activities from taking place in the future and serve notice to everyone that wildlife officers are ever vigilant in the service of conservation and public safety.”
Officers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission infiltrated poaching circles to document violations including bear baiting; illegal take of bears, deer and other wildlife; illegal use of dogs; operation of illegal bear enclosures in North Carolina; and, guiding hunts on national forest lands without the required permits.
Bear hunting is popular in North Carolina, with use of dogs and by what is known as still hunting. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission estimates there are about 15,500 active bear hunters in North Carolina. In the 2011-12 hunting season, 2,775 bears were legally taken by these hunters. Data for the 2012-13 hunting season is still being compiled.
“We have learned that conserving black bears and other wildlife resources requires us to protect them across their range,” said Clayton Jordan, chief ranger, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. “This operation is a testament to the success that is achieved when neighboring state and federal conservation agencies come together to ensure that our wildlife heritage is conserved for future generations to enjoy.”
Bear hunters must hold a valid hunting license, a big game permit and nonresident hunters must also purchase a bear hunting privilege license. Regulations, seasons and areas open for hunting are listed in the annual Regulations Digest, also available online at www.ncwildlife.org. Hunters may not take a bear with the use or aid of bait, or place processed food products as bait in any area of the state with an open season for taking black bears.
Officers began making arrests Feb. 19.
“The investigative phase is ending, as warrants and citations are served and initial arrests have been made,” said Caveny. “Prosecution will begin with our full confidence that law-abiding hunters, conservationists and the general public appreciate the hard work undertaken by wildlife officers on their behalf.”
According to Macon County Sheriff Robbie Holland, the Sheriff's Department has assisted in one arrest so far. Jerome Brock Parker, 29, of Cherokee, was arrested on Wednesday, Feb. 20, and charged with a misdemeanor count of taking a black bear with aid and illegal use of bait. He also received three other charges regarding wildlife violations. Parker was arrested under a $7,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on May 2.
Jackson County officers arrested Dallas Ray Crowe, 26, of Sellers Road on Feb. 19. Crowe was charged with failure to report/tag big game and unlawful possession of a black bear.
Arrests were also made in Swain and Rabun counties.
This investigation helps safeguard wildlife by making poachers pay now, and making would-be violators think twice before breaking laws that conserve natural resources.
Additionally, the partnerships established through Operation Something Bruin help extend wildlife conservation efforts across multiple law enforcement and wildlife management jurisdictions. Learn more at www.operationsomethingbruin.org.