Troy Man Charged with Evidence Tampering in Grizzly Bear Killing

Othel Lee Pearson is charged with a felony count of tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor count of failure to report a grizzly bear killing

By Maggie Dresser
Grizzly bear. Photo courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

An 80-year-old Troy man was charged this week with evidence tampering related to the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear on his property in 2020 and the discarding of the bear’s GPS collar in the Yaak River, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Othel Lee Pearson on Jan. 22 was charged with a felony count of tampering with evidence and a misdemeanor count of failure to report taking of a grizzly bear in U.S. District Court. He faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

“As alleged, Pearson discarded a GPS collar on a grizzly bear and hid the bear’s claws and an ear tag in an attempt to avoid criminal prosecution for unlawfully killing a grizzly bear. Such conduct is illegal and, as shown here, will result in the prosecution of a federal felony,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

According to court documents, Pearson on Nov. 19, 2020 shot and killed a sow grizzly bear on his residential property using a .270 rifle and he cut a GPS collar fitted to the bear and discarded it into the nearby Yaak River.

Pearson also cut paws, ear tags and an identifying lip tattoo from the bear carcass. He then concealed the bear claws and an ear tag in a hollowed-out tree on National Forest land near his residence, records state.

Pearson tampered with these identifying objects to impair the criminal prosecution for the unlawful killing of the grizzly bear. He did not report the grizzly bear killing to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within five days of the incident.

The parties informed the court that there is a plea agreement in the matter, and it is anticipated that Pearson has agreed to plead guilty to both charges in the information.

The plea agreement calls for prosecutors and the defendant to jointly recommend a sentence of three years of probation and an $8,000 fine. In exchange for guilty pleas, federal attorneys agree not to prosecute another individual in connection with the taking of the grizzly bear, and Pearson agrees to cooperate regarding the skull of a second grizzly bear discovered on National Forest lands near his property.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Tanner is prosecuting the case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.