A collar in the river and claws in a hollow tree.

The persistence of authorities to stay on the case led to charges this week in an investigation that began over three years ago. And while the suspect's age may prevent anything close to maximum penalties, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorities are to be commended for their diligence.

The organization's Montana branch tells us that a Troy, Montana man was charged this week with evidence tampering related to the shooting and killing of a grizzly bear on his property in 2020, and discarding the bear's tracking collar, claws and ear tag. Othel Lee Pearson, age 80, faces felony charges of tampering with evidence and misdemeanor charges of failure to report the taking of a grizzly bear.


In spite of the attempts to discard evidence, authorities found the tracking collar that had been fitted for the bear in the Yaak River. Then claws, ear tag identification and an identifying lip tattoo were removed and hidden in a hollow tree.

Mr. Pearson did not report the killing of the grizzly bear to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within the mandatory five days of its occurrence.


The maximum penalties for the offenses are are stiff. Mr. Pearson could face a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the evidence tampering charge and a maximum of six months in prison and a $25,000 fine on the failure to report charges of killing the bear. As an octogenarian and a plea bargain proposal in the works, the numbers likely will more closely resemble a recommended sentence of three years of probation and an $8,000 fine.


According to U.S. Court documents, "In exchange for guilty pleas, the United States agrees not to prosecute another individual in connection with the taking of the grizzly bear, and Pearson agrees to cooperate with the United States regarding the skull of a second grizzly bear discovered on National Forest System lands near his property."

A court date for Mr. Pearson's appearance has not been set.

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