- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 18, 2002

A Mifflin County, Pa., man recently was sentenced to pay nearly $6,000 in fines and replacement costs for killing a black bear he claimed was threatening him, even though the bruin was just snacking on various seeds in the man's bird feeders.

David Vogt, 45, of Lewistown, was sentenced Sept.6 by a district judge to pay a mandatory $800 fine for illegally killing a black bear. He then was ordered to pay $5,000 replacement costs after Pennsylvania Game Commission officers and a biologist proved he did not kill the bear in self-defense.

It marks the first time a Pennsylvania judge has issued a sentence that includes maximum penalty and replacement costs as provided by law.

Game warden Jeff Mock stated that the evidence derived from the scene of the bear killing and testimony from eyewitnesses led him to believe the bear was not killed in self-defense.

"This bear was shot on Vogt's property," Mock said, "but from all the testimony gathered, no one was outside the home when the bear was destroyed. Also, forensic evidence gathered from the scene proved that the bear was not in an aggressive posture when shot."

Game commission officers often access both state police and federal forensic laboratories for evidence analysis during investigations of illegally killed wildlife.

Mark Ternent, game commission bear biologist, testified at Vogt's trial that the adult male bear, which weighed a whopping 630 pounds, would have weighed more than 700 pounds before denning in mid- to late-November.

"Less than 1 percent of the nearly 45,000 bears weighed in Pennsylvania in the last 20 years obtain that size," Ternent said. "The odds of legally harvesting a bear of this size are about 1 in 39,000.

"This whole case could have been avoided had the homeowner quit feeding birds when they learned the feeder was attracting bears. Feeding bears is what bird feeding amounts to when bears become frequent visitors and can cause a variety of problems. This case is a fitting example of why we discourage people from feeding wildlife if bears become habitual visitors."

Could Maryland ban handguns? A concerned reader points out that two months ago Maryland Attorney General Joseph Curran, who has never been viewed as an avid supporter of Second Amendment rights, issued an opinion that says newly manufactured handguns must have an internal locking device "by which the firearm can only be operated with a key or combination or other mechanism unique to that gun."

If this "unique to the gun" language is taken seriously, you'll have more than a little trouble finding a handgun that meets these requirements. To the best of everybody's knowledge, there are no currently manufactured handguns including those (like Taurus or S&W) with integrated locks for the use of standardized keys that would qualify. All of this could mean that the sale of newly manufactured handguns could be banned in Maryland as of Jan.1. The exceptions would be the police, military and such.

We keep mentioning such sharp departures from the original intent of the Founding Fathers' documents that shaped the United States. No doubt, they would be spinning in their graves if they could see how one of the original 13 states is doing all it can to ignore the citizens' rights by making it virtually impossible to have a gun and obey the law at the same time.

Rockfish hearings The District-headquartered Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission will have a series of public hearings concerning the future of the striped bass, also known as rockfish.

The "Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Striped Bass" hearings should draw the interest of sport anglers who know that commercial fish netters hope to be able to go after rockfish in ever-increasing amounts.

At 7:30 p.m. on Oct.1, a hearing will take place in the Chesapeake Ballroom of the Ramada Inn, 300 South Salisbury Blvd., in Salisbury. That is followed by an Oct.10, 7 p.m., meeting at Anne Arundel Community College's Humanities Building, Room 112, 101 College Parkway, in Arnold. For questions, call the DNR's Howard King at 410/260-8264.

The Potomac River Fisheries Commission meets Sept.26 at 6 p.m., at 222 Taylor St., Colonial Beach, Va. A.C. Carpenter is the PRFC head, 804/224-7148.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission gathers Oct.7, 7 p.m., at 2600 Washington Ave., Fourth Floor Conference Room, Newport News. Contact Jack Travelstead, 757/247-2247.

The ASMFC's Striped Bass Board will review public comment received at these hearings, as well as those received in written form. Copies of the Public Hearing Draft can be obtained by calling the ASMFC at 202/289-6400 or at www.asmfc.org. Public comment will be accepted until Oct.18 and should be forwarded to Robert Beal, Director, Interstate Fisheries Management Program, 1444 Eye St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005.

Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected].

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