ND man accused of illegally killing Wis bearA North Dakota man accused of illegally killing a 700-pound black bear in Wisconsin told authorities he had gone deer hunting and mistook the bear for a big buck, a game warden says.
A North Dakota man accused of illegally killing a 700-pound black bear in Wisconsin told authorities he had gone deer hunting and mistook the bear for a big buck, a game warden says.
Michael C. Graff, 57, of West Fargo, was charged Monday in Dunn County, Wis., with hunting bear during a closed season, shooting or harming a hibernating bear, and shooting a bear without a license.
Graff is slated to appear in court on March 22, said David Hausman, a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources warden supervisor. Graff faces up to 27 months in jail and $30,000 in fines if convicted on the misdemeanor charges, the warden said.
Telephone calls to Graff's home on Wednesday were not answered.
Wardens initially believed the bear had been killed by a combine in a corn field in November in northwest Wisconsin, but a tip from a citizen led authorities to Graff, Hausman said.
Wildlife officials in North Dakota and Wisconsin were involved in the investigation, he said.
Graff later told authorities that he shot the bear while deer hunting, and mistook the sleeping bruin for a big buck, Hausman said.
Graff has relatives in Wisconsin, Hausman said.
"That's what brought him here to hunt deer," Hausman said. "During the hunt, he encountered a hibernating bear in a corn field, and he shot it."
Hausman said the bear was hit by a combine the next day, and the farmer, Neil Schlough, believed he had killed the animal and notified authorities.
"At that time, we didn't have any reason to believe it had been shot," Hausman said.
"We seized the hide and the skull as evidence of a crime," he said.
Hausman said the farmer who thought he had killed the bear with his combine wants the carcass, and has threatened to sue to get it back.
"The farmer wants it back but I'm not going to speculate if that will happen," Hausman said.
The bear could challenge the Wisconsin's record for its size, Hausman said.
The size of the skull is what it takes to get it into the record book, Hausman said, but no official measurement had been taken as of Wednesday.
"A 400-pound bear is a big bear and this one is alleged to be more than 700 pounds," Hausman said.
He would like to see the stuffed carcass on public display.
"Because of it's unusual size, and the unusual case, it has a lot of interest," he said.