During the 2017 Fall hunt in Colorado, Robert Stalley of Pierre, South Dakota successfully killed a deer and a black bear. But he was labeled a “poacher” when he tried to pass one off as the other and got busted by Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).
Stalley was the subject of an investigation into a bear carcass reportedly abandoned with the meat unsalvaged. The investigation was launched when other hunters called Colorado’s anonymous poaching tip line. After due process, Stalley’s sentence was announced on June 25th, 2019.
He is banned from hunting and fishing for twelve years, fined $3,415, and placed on unsupervised probation. He also had to forfeit his rifle, which in the trophy photos is fitted with a scope, bipod, and suppressor. It’s unclear whether he had to forfeit the accessories, too.
The 2019 Colorado Big Game regs state it is a felony to kill big game and not take home the meat.
FELONY OFFENSE: To kill and abandon big game. It is illegal to remove only the hide, antlers or other trophy parts and leave the carcass in the field.CPW 2019 Big Game Regulations, page 14
South Dakota, Stalley’s home state, has no hunting season for black bears. Most states require hunters to salvage black bear meat. Conspicuously, Alaska only requires meat to be salvaged in certain seasons and in certain units, while Idaho ceased the requirement to salvage meat in 2009.
Colorado bear hunters must submit their bear hide and skull to CPW within five business days of the kill for recording. Biologists record the bear’s approximate age and sex, which helps with counts and science. When Stalley appeared with his bear’s hide and skull, he reportedly also showed off a bag full of meat trying to prove that he had harvested the animal’s meat. It turns out that the bag contained deer meat.
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“During my interview with Mr. Stalley at his South Dakota home, he stated that he did take bear meat from the backstraps and hindquarters and that he ate some and gave some away; however, our investigation proved otherwise,” said Wildlife Officer Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs. “In addition, Mr. Stalley took deer meat from the same location that the bear was harvested but chose to leave all of the bear meat behind, removing only the head and hide.”
Stalley held legal dear and bear licenses, so the issue was that he did not take the bear meat. And of course, he lied to wildlife officers.
“The witnesses gave me the information I needed to begin the investigation, and for that we are very grateful to those individuals,” said Taylor. “It gives us great satisfaction that we have put another poacher out of business, but it’s likely we could not have done it without the help of the hunters that brought it to our attention. It’s a good thing that most hunters are ethical and conscientious.”
Colorado is a founding member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Started in the ’80s by Colorado and Nevada, part of the Compact is that penalties from one state for wildlife crimes are enforced in all the member states. That means that Stalley cannot hunt or fish in any of the 49 continental states, and Hawaii is currently working on legislation to join the Compact.
The 58-year-old Stalley will be in his 70’s before he can drop a line or raise a gun on an animal in the United States again.
Did you take home bear meat this year? Try this steak rub.