Sunday, November 11, 2001

MONETA, Va. (AP) Shannon Simons can’t believe he’s being charged with hunting a bear out of season.
The 28-year-old farm manager grabbed his muzzleloader Wednesday evening and shot a big black bear that was in a barn with nine prize bulls on the JOCO Farm.
The bulls are valued at about $2,000 each, Mr. Simons said. But as much as he wanted to protect them, he said he wanted to protect wife and three children, too.
“What if my 4-year-old son had walked in there before I did” he asked.
His wife had told him the bulls were going crazy, and when Mr. Simons walked into the barn, he saw the nearly 200-pound black bear cornered in the pen, gnashing its teeth. The bulls were bellowing and kicking up dirt.
Mr. Simons shot the bear, then dragged it out of the pen and into his truck bed because the smell of blood was agitating the bulls, he said.
He called the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office on the advice of friends and fellow hunters. The sheriff’s office notified the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, which sent a game warden to the farm.
Mr. Simons was issued the citation and his guns were confiscated. He faces up to a $1,000 fine and the loss of his hunting license when he goes to Bedford County General District Court on Dec. 13.
“It’s just a wrongful charge. I don’t hunt in barns,” Mr. Simons said Friday.
D.K. Neel, the game warden who wrote the citation, was off duty, but yesterday Lt. Dennis Mullins, Warden Neel’s supervisor, said the issue is more than a little complicated.
For starters, Mr. Mullins said, when people see evidence of wild animals doing damage to their property or livestock, they are required to notify the game department and let the game wardens handle the situation.
Lt. Mullins said that it is hard to prove Mr. Simmons’ assertion that his life was endangered, because the bear was moved from where it was shot. Lt. Mullins also said it may be impossible to prove whether the bear was cornered or could have escaped on its own.
He said he thought it was suspicious that Mr. Simons waited such a long time after shooting the bear before calling the authorities.
Mr. Simons said he waited an hour because it took that long to stop shaking and collect himself.
Lt. Mullins said the bear will be examined to determine, among other things, if it was malnourished and possibly entered the barn looking for food.
“We don’t want to be down on the fellow who shot it. But we want to do the right thing,” Lt. Mullins said.

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