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Troy man pleads guilty in connection with illegal 2020 killing of grizzly bear

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Troy man pleads guilty in connection with illegal 2020 killing of grizzly bear

Feb 16, 2024 | 10:13 am ET
By Blair Miller
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Troy man pleads guilty in connection with illegal 2020 killing of grizzly bear
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A grizzly bear (Photo by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program via FLICKR | Creative Commons license).

A Troy man charged by federal prosecutors last month in connection to his killing of a grizzly bear in 2020 pleaded guilty to the charges Thursday but is unlikely to face prison time because of a plea agreement.

Othel Lee Pearson, 80, pleaded guilty at his arraignment in Missoula to one count of tampering with evidence and one count with failure to report the take of a grizzly bear.

While the two charges, one of them a felony, carry a potential maximum sentence of more than 20 years in prison and up to $275,000 in fines, as part of the plea agreement, the two sides will recommend Pearson is sentenced to three years of probation and an $8,000 fine – the amount in Montana someone has to pay for illegally killing a grizzly bear.

But Judge Donald Molloy will have the final say over the sentence he imposes. Pearson is scheduled to be sentenced on June 6.

According to court documents and the plea agreement, Pearson shot and killed a sow grizzly on his property in November 2020, cut off its GPS collar and its paws, ear tags and identifying lip tattoo, then dumped its body in the Yaak River.

He hid the claws and ear tag in a hollowed-out tree on U.S. Forest Service land close to his home. While the records do not make clear why Pearson killed the bear, he failed to report its killing within five days in accordance with federal law.

A warden found the carcass in the river days after the bear was killed and subsequently found the GPS collar, which showed the bear had died on Pearson’s property.

Investigators served a search warrant that December and found what they called a “shooting room” attached to the home with views of feed sites, and a bag of meat that was identified as belonging to the same bear that had been killed.

In April 2022, a person hiking on Forest land found the discarded ear tag and claws.

As part of the plea agreement, the government agreed not to prosecute Marcia Pearson so long as Pearson cooperates with investigators looking into the killing of a second grizzly close to Pearson’s property.