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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003

TWISTED TROPHY: HUNTERS BUSTED WITH BEAR

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 took afterwards.

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 animal cruelty.

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.

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