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Press Release

Troy area man sentenced to two months in prison, fined $10,000 for killing grizzly bear, tampering with evidence

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Montana

MISSOULA — A Troy area man who admitted to killing a grizzly bear on his property in 2020, not reporting the shooting as required and throwing the bear’s GPS collar in the Yaak River was sentenced today to two months in prison and fined $10,000, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

The defendant, Othel Lee Pearson, 80, pleaded guilty in February to tampering with evidence, a felony, and to failure to report taking of grizzly bear, a misdemeanor.

U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy presided. The court further ordered Pearson to serve four months of home confinement after his incarceration, to be followed by three years of supervised release. In addition, the court ordered Pearson to forfeit a .270 Winchester bolt-action rifle with a scope that he used to kill the grizzly bear and was seized from his residence. The court allowed Pearson to self-report to prison.

“Those of us who grew up in Montana know not just the dangers associated with grizzly bears, but also their protected status as a threatened species, too. When, as here, one illegally kills a grizzly bear, and in an attempt to cover it up, cuts off the bear’s GPS collar, tosses it into the Yaak River, and butchers the carcass for disposal, a federal felony will be pursued. The Cabinet-Yaak area is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone and includes Pearson’s property, which makes Pearson’s conduct even more troubling. Pearson was only caught due to the sophistication and tenacity of agents with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our federal prosecutors, for which I am grateful,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.

"The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to protecting our nation's natural resources for the continued benefit of the American people. Grizzly bears are a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and the state animal of Montana, which shows the importance of grizzly bears to the people and our ecosystems," said Edward Grace, Assistant Director for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement. "Our agents will work tirelessly to investigate the illegal take of grizzly bears even when faced with the attempts to destroy and cover up the crime." 

As alleged in amended court documents, on Nov. 19, 2020, Pearson shot and killed a sow grizzly bear on his residential property, using a .270 rifle. Pearson cut a GPS collar that had been fitted to the bear and discarded the collar nearby in the Yaak River. Pearson also cut paws, ear tags and an identifying lip tattoo from the bear carcass. Pearson then concealed the bear’s claws and an ear tag in a hollowed-out tree on Forest Service land near his residence. Meat from the bear was discovered in Pearson’s freezer inside his home. Pearson attempted to and did tamper with these identifying items to impair the criminal prosecution for failing to report taking of a grizzly bear. Pearson did not report the killing of the grizzly bear to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service within five days of occurrence.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office prosecuted the case. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducted the investigation.



Clair J. Howard

Public Affairs Officer


Updated June 11, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-152