Florida Man Sentenced for Illegal Taking of Black Bear in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge | USAO-AK

Anchorage, Alaska – U.S. Attorney Bryan Schroder announced that a Florida man was sentenced in federal court for violating the Lacey Act by shooting and transporting a black bear in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, which is part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, an area closed to all hunting and trapping.

James L. Connolly, 63, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was sentenced on Monday, June 15, 2020, by U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble, to pay a fine of $8,000, after previously pleading guilty to one count of violating the Lacey Act.  As part of his sentence, Connolly agreed to forfeit the black bear hide, and is to serve a two-year term of probation, during which he is prohibited from hunting anywhere in the United States.

According to court documents, on May 17, 2018, Connolly shot and killed the black bear in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area on the Kenai Peninsula, an area closed to all hunting and trapping.  Connolly then transported the bear carcass from Alaska to a tannery in California, who then shipped the carcass to Connolly in Florida. 

The investigation revealed that eyewitnesses had seen the remains of a black bear that had been killed on Skilak Lake Loop Road, and others had seen and spoken with Connolly, who told them he recently shot and killed a black bear in the area.  Law enforcement officers took DNA samples of the blood from the kill site and matched it with DNA samples taken from the bear carcass in Connolly’s possession in Florida.  Evidence collected by now retired Federal Wildlife Canine Rex played a vital role in the investigation and prosecution of Connolly.  

At the sentencing hearing, Judge Scoble noted the importance of protecting Alaska’s natural resources and “the wild spaces” in the United States.  He also commented that Mr. Connolly’s actions were particularly “abhorrent” under the circumstances.  Specifically, that an individual would travel to Alaska from Florida with the intent to hunt and kill a wild animal, and not be aware of the proper areas he could legally take an animal.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Office of Law Enforcement conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Florida Wildlife Commission and Federal Wildlife Officers in Alaska, Florida, and North Carolina, leading to the successful prosecution of this case.  This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Kelly Cavanaugh.

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