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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Arkansas Game and Fish dive team helps bring black bear killer to justice

Thursday, January 2, 2003

A Grace, Miss., man, Eric Wade Mobley, pleaded guilty Dec. 23 in the Southern District of Mississippi federal court to one count of violating the Lacey Act for killing a black bear, a species listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

U.S. Magistrate James Sumner ordered Mobley to pay nearly $10,000 for killing the bear. Judge Sumner awarded $4,000 in restitution to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, $3,000 in restitution to the Mississippi Black Bear Restoration Task Force, a fine of $2,000, and a $662 veterinary bill. In addition, Mobley will be required to perform 20 hours of community service with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks Hunter Education Program and was placed on a one-year probation with the condition that he cannot hunt anywhere in the world.

Mobley admitted he had killed the bear, and cut off the head and paws. He said he was scared so he dumped the bear parts in Steel Bayou, Miss. The search and rescue dive team of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission explored the cold waters of Steel Bayou for two days but did not find the bear parts.

AGFC deputy director-enforcement Loren Hitchcock said this was another example of the dive team's value. "This group of professionals are an important part of this agency," Hitchcock said.

Protection of the threatened Louisiana black bear is a high priority in the area, said Robert Oliveri, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resident agent in charge of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. "Enforcement of federal and state conservation laws is a vital part of wildlife conservation and management," he said.

According to Oliveri, the bear's remains were discovered a year ago in a slough at an Issaquena County, Miss., hunting club. The head and paws had been removed from the carcass. Law enforcement officers and a veterinarian conducted a forensics examination of the bear and obtained bullet fragments from the fatal shot. The investigators then conducted interviews and discovered information leading to Mobley.

"I swore that I would never admit to killing that bear," Mobley said after investigators searched his home. They found the rifle used to shoot the bear hidden in a storage building.

"This was an intensive, investigative effort involving the State of Mississippi, the State of Arkansas and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service," said Lt. Col. John Collins of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. "The law enforcement officers used competent investigative skills in obtaining a confession and bringing this case to justice."

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