Poaching 500-Pound Black Bear
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Minnesota Man Who Poached 500-Pound Black Bear Gets 3-Year Hunting Ban

A Boone & Crockett-class black bear was illegally hunted in Minnesota, but the person responsible has been sentenced in the case. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that 42-year-old Michael J. Thielen will lose his hunting privileges for the next three years in Minnesota and other states under the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact after he pleaded guilty in Morrison County District Court.

Thielen pleaded guilty to possession and the taking of a big game animal out of season. In doing so, he received two years of probation and was ordered to pay $800 in restitution for the bear and an additional $685 in fines and fees. He avoided a one-year jail term, which was set aside by Judge Leonard Weiler. The Star-Tribune reports that other misdemeanor charges were dismissed including wanton waste, hunting without a license, baiting of bears, and using an artificial light.

The case stems back to September 2021 when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received two anonymous tips about Thielen having shot a black bear out of season from his yard near Little Falls on Highway 27. The bear was shot on July 28, 2021, over a month before black bear season officially started. Apparently, Thielen's most costly mistake was posting a photo of the bear to Facebook once the season started. The DNR says he purchased a resident's surplus bear license, allegedly to help cover up the incident.

When confronted, Thielen admitted to the DNR he shot the animal well after legal shooting hours, at around 1:00 a.m., while it was illuminated by a floodlight. Thielen left the bear's carcass wrapped in plastic and went to work. He returned eight hours later and salvaged 50 to 60 pounds of meat from the animal before using a skid steer to dispose of the rest in a dumpster. Thielen also salvaged the bear's skull and placed it outside hoping insects would clean it.

The DNR seized the bear's skull and the rifle Thielen used in the incident. The Star-Tribune notes that Thielen will have a chance to get the rifle back, but he'll need to be the high bidder when it gets auctioned off later.

For what it's worth, Thielen says the DNR failed to help him with what he considered a nuisance animal. In June 2022, Thielen claimed in an interview with the Star-Tribune that he was protecting his property. He said he asked the DNR for help with animal twice and that it had caused $2,500 in damage, mainly by killing ducks and chickens.

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