CHARLOTTE COUNTY, November 17, 2003 - Two Cape Coral men
have plead guilty to animal cruelty after shooting and killing a black bear,
an animal listed on the threatened species list.
The hunters say they acted
first in self-defense, then to put the animal out of its misery -
but experts say there's no explanation for the twisted pictures the men
The seven grisly photographs were poses you won't find in
the wild. One staged shot shows the propped-up bear holding a pistol.
Prosecutors say the photos were taken by a trio of hunters after they killed
the bear in January of 2001.
Tony Easterly and Scott Shaw were busted after taking the
bear's head to a taxidermist.
Easterly claims he was in a tree stand hunting hogs when
the bear appeared.
He says he shot it with a bow and arrow.
According to Easterly, the trio tracked the wounded bear
and killed it with a handgun - experts say that was a bad decision.
"If the person was threatened and they killed the bear in
self defense, you need to report that right away. You need to report when
you have a carcass of any listed species," said Monica Dorken of
the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center.
Instead of reporting it, they took the dead bear to
Easterly's house and started snapping pictures.
Charged with killing a
threatened species, Easterly and Shaw plead guilty to the lesser charge of
The pair were sentenced to a year's probation - including
no hunting, a $500 fine and community service. It would have been more severe
if they had not pleaded down from a felony.
Authorities are still looking for the third man in the
case, reportedly Easterly's cousin Guy McGee. He's believed to be in
Michigan. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Charlotte County isn't known for having black bears at all
- the few that are there likely live in pinewood flats. The bear in this
case was shot on private property in eastern Charlotte.