Updated: 1/29/2009 11:42:05 PM
Phyllis Schlough steadied a large black bear that was killed in November on her farm north of Menomonie.
DNR: Bear was shot dead before hit by combine
By Joe Knight
A 57-year-old North Dakota man accused of illegally shooting a large black bear in Dunn County during November's deer gun hunting season is expected to be charged.
The bear, which may have weighed more than 700 pounds, was initially reported to have been killed by a combine.
The hunter, a former Dunn County resident, was hunting Nov. 25 on the Schlough farm, 20 miles north of Menomonie, when he shot the bear, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR is not releasing the name of the accused shooter and other details of the case until the Dunn County district attorney files charges.
The suspected bear shooter, of West Fargo, N.D., has admitted to shooting the bear, after being interviewed by conservation wardens from North Dakota and Minnesota, according to state officials.
The Leader-Telegram reported in a Dec. 11 story that the bear had been killed by a combine the evening of Nov. 26 while it was hibernating in a field of standing corn, based on an interview with Phyllis Schlough, who owns the farm with her husband, Neil, who drove the combine.
A warden inspected the bear and, after some haggling, sold it to the Schloughs for $75
. Phyllis Schlough said they intended to have it mounted.
The Schloughs are not expected to be charged with any wildlife violations, and the story they told the DNR and the media about hitting the hibernating bear with a combine may be essentially correct, said David Hausman, a warden supervisor with the DNR based in Baldwin. However, it is also clear that the bear had already been shot when Neil Schlough encountered it while harvesting corn, Hausman said.
"It was definitely dead when he hit it with the combine," he said.
The DNR has confiscated what remains of the bear from a taxidermist, including the hide and skull. An inspection of the skin showed two bullet holes, Hausman said.
The Schloughs will get their $75 back but not the rest of the bear, he said.
"The statutes state that unlawfully taken wildlife shall be retained by the state," Hausman said. Also, the DNR has a policy of using "exceptional" wildlife specimens for education or displaying them in a public place, he said.
The field-dressed bear weighed about 618 pounds when it was weighed on Thanksgiving, Phyllis Schlough said. It may have weighed more than 700 pounds when alive, which is unusually large for a black bear.
The DNR warden who inspected the bear initially didn't suspect the bear had been shot, but additional information caused wardens to take a closer look at its remains, Hausman said. The DNR will release more details after charges are filed.
A red flag for wardens was that a man hunting with the accused shooter tried to buy a bear permit the day it was shot.
"After they killed the bear, they thought they could find a permit for a bear, not knowing how the season framework works in Wisconsin," Hausman said.
By late November the state's bear season had been over for weeks, and hunters who apply for bear permits must wait for years to receive one
, he said.
Bears are measured for the record book based on the dimensions of the skull, not on weight. Hausman said he expected the skull would be measured once it has gone through a required drying period.
"It is big," he said. "Whether it's a state record of some sort, we're not sure yet."
The Schloughs could not be reached for comment Thursday.