HELENA — A southwestern Montana man who has been feeding black bears for more than a decade, leading wardens to kill at least a dozen bears, has been given a two-year suspended sentence for feeding them dog food, peanut butter, sugar, alfalfa cubes and frosting.
Wayne August MacLean was sentenced in District Court on Aug. 28 after pleading guilty to public nuisance and feeding wildlife at his residence near Rogers Pass northwest of Helena, the Independent Record reported Wednesday. Conditions of his suspended sentence include not feeding any wildlife.
Prosecutors say MacLean has multiple convictions and has received numerous citations over the past decade from wardens.
“He’s done more damage to black bears than any 20 poachers,” said Bryan Golie, criminal investigator with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. “There is no excuse for what this man is doing.”
MacLean, 57, seems to have a genuine love for the animals and interacts with some of them, but doesn’t understand that his actions endanger himself and his neighbors, warden David Holland said.
“This wasn’t like, ‘I left my bird feeder out,'” Holland said. “He would literally feed (multiple bears) 100 pounds of dog food at a time. We were finding cases, flats, of cake frosting … not one or two containers of it — cases.”
MacLean could not be reached for comment. The phone number the newspaper received from the Lewis and Clark County sheriff’s office was not active.
Charges against MacLean date back to at least 2003, when he acknowledged feeding bears and wrestling with them. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to feeding the bears and creating a public nuisance. Wardens killed five black bears near MacLean’s residence in 2005, including a 17-year-old male that weighed about 500 pounds.
MacLean has paid more than $10,000 in restitution, typically $1,000 per bear that is killed, but continued to feed the bears, officials said.
A search warrant served at MacLean’s residence in October 2013 turned up empty bags that had contained about 750 pounds of food along with 160 pounds of alfalfa cubes, numerous jars of peanut butter and cake frosting and multiple 10-pound bags of sugar, court records said.
“Officers then divided into three teams and walked (a bear’s) trail into the forest east of the residence,” an affidavit supporting MacLean’s arrest said. “Officers discovered … a maze of trails leading to three major feeding stations.
They then observed bears swarming out of the trees to eat the treats that MacLean supplied. As a result of their habituation to humans and their lack of fear toward the officers, two bears killed on the spot.
A neighbor reported killing a bear last week after it got into his chicken coop to eat grain. The bear didn’t go after chickens, cats or dogs on the property and had no problem approaching people, neighbor Rex Meyers said.
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