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Lincoln County man sentenced for killing a grizzly bear and tampering with evidence

Grizzly Bear - AP PHOTO
Posted at 7:16 AM, Jun 13, 2024

GREAT FALLS — Othel Lee Pearson of Lincoln County, who admitted to killing a grizzly bear on his property in 2020, not reporting the shooting as required, and throwing the bear’s GPS collar in the Yaak River, was sentenced in federal court this week.

Pearson, 80 years old, pleaded guilty in February 2024 to tampering with evidence, a felony; and failure to report taking of grizzly bear, a misdemeanor.

As alleged in court documents, on November 19, 2020, Pearson shot and killed a sow grizzly bear on his residential property, using a .270 rifle.

Pearson cut a GPS collar that had been fitted to the bear and discarded the collar nearby in the Yaak River.

Pearson also cut paws, ear tags and an identifying lip tattoo from the bear carcass. Pearson then concealed the bear’s claws and an ear tag in a hollowed-out tree on Forest Service land near his residence.

Meat from the bear was discovered in Pearson’s freezer inside his home.

The news release said that Pearson attempted to and did tamper with these identifying items to impair the criminal prosecution for failing to report taking of a grizzly bear. Pearson did not report the killing of the grizzly bear to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within five days of occurrence.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy presided and sentenced Pearson to two months in prison, and ordered him to pay a fine of $10,000, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said in a news release.

The court also ordered Pearson to serve four months of home confinement after his incarceration, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

In addition, the court ordered Pearson to forfeit a .270 Winchester bolt-action rifle with a scope that he used to kill the grizzly bear and was seized from his residence. The court allowed Pearson to self-report to prison.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service conducted the investigation.