In a shocking turn of events, 80-year-old Othel Lee Pearson from Troy, Montana, has filed a plea agreement with the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, following allegations that he killed a grizzly bear in November 2020. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent, Mona Iannelli, presented a damning affidavit that detailed the incident, leading to charges of tampering with evidence (a felony) and failure to report taking a grizzly bear (a misdemeanor).
According to court documents and a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Pearson allegedly shot a sow grizzly bear with a scoped .270 Winchester Model 70 Featherlight from his home in Troy. The gruesome discovery of the grizzly bear carcass on Pipe Creek Road, south of Yaak, on Nov. 23, 2020, triggered the investigation. The bear had been partially skinned, missing front quarters and paws.
The Investigation Unfolds
The bear, equipped with a GPS collar and identification tags, had been microchipped. However, the collar and tags were missing, having been deliberately removed. Federal wildlife agents began connecting the dots when they found the GPS collar in the Yaak River, leading them to Pearson’s property. A subsequent search warrant executed on Dec. 16 uncovered a shooting room with open windows, wildlife baiting equipment, and a spent .270 casing.
Agents discovered “red snow” near the shooting room and collected animal tissue samples from Pearson’s house and truck, which matched with the sow. A bag of meat labeled “Ham” found in Pearson’s freezer also corresponded to the bear. The evidence didn’t stop there, as a hiker allegedly discovered a trash bag on Forest Service land adjacent to Pearson’s property in April 2022. The bag contained ten grizzly bear claws and a white ear tag linked to the same sow through forensic analysis.
Pearson now faces serious legal consequences, with a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for the felony charge, and a maximum of six months in prison and a $25,000 fine for the misdemeanor charge. The plea agreement, which the district court will consider on Feb. 15, proposes a sentence of three years of probation and an $8,000 fine. As part of the agreement, federal agents would not investigate or prosecute Pearson’s wife, Marcia Pearson, for her alleged involvement in the incident.
This case serves as a stark reminder of the legal and ethical responsibilities that come with hunting. The plea agreement, if accepted, outlines the consequences of Pearson’s actions, shedding light on the need for vigilance and accountability in wildlife conservation efforts.