Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
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Wisconsin Hunters Convicted in Alaska Bear Hunting Investigation
Midwest Region, May 30, 2007
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Seized Alaskan Brown Bear

- USFWS photo
Seized Alaskan Brown Bear - USFWS photo - Photo Credit: n/a
Seized Alaskan Brown Bear

- USFWS photo
Seized Alaskan Brown Bear - USFWS photo - Photo Credit: n/a

Two hunters from southeastern Wisconsin have pleaded guilty to federal charges in U.S. District Court, Milwaukee, Wis., in a case involving illegal brown bear hunting and illegal guiding in Alaska. Gerald T. Thull, age 52, West Bend, Wis., and Thomas J. Bahr, age 44, Random Lake, Wis., appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Callahan, Jr., on May 30. Both pleaded guilty as part of plea agreements made with the United States Attorney’s office. Judge Callahan sentenced Thull to pay a fine of $15,000 and ordered Bahr to pay a fine of $5,000. Judge Callahan ordered both men to pay restitution to the state of Alaska in the total amount of $2,600. Rifles used in the illegal hunts, two full-mounted brown bears and a bear skull were forfeited as part of the guilty pleas.

Thull and Bahr admitted to conspiring with Alaska hunting guide Bradley J. Salsaa to violate the federal Lacey Act. In October 1999, Thull and Bahr hunted brown bears illegally in Alaska, even though both men had killed brown bears in the same Game Management Unit the previous year. Alaska state law prohibited Thull and Bahr from bear hunting in the same Unit two years in a row. A third man, Gilbert J. Beine, age 52, Campbellsport, Wis., allowed Thull to use his tag on the bear Thull illegally shot. Beine has also been charged in federal court, and will appear at a later date. A fourth unnamed hunter allowed his tag to be used on a bear claimed by Bahr. During the investigation, federal agents learned that Bahr illegally shot at, and missed, another brown bear on the same hunting trip.

Thull and Bahr pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act by transporting, receiving and acquiring the illegally-killed bears in interstate commerce, from Alaska to Wisconsin. Thull pleaded guilty to an additional charge of purchasing guiding services for the illegal brown bear hunts.

Bahr told the Judge that the bears he and Thull shot in 1998 weren’t large enough. He said he and Thull wanted to go back to Alaska the next year to kill larger bears. Judge Callahan called Thull "the hub of the wheel" who paid for most of the trip for the entire group. The Judge said Thull thumbed his nose at the rules because he could afford it. He said Thull’s behavior suggested disregard and arrogance toward game laws. Said Judge Callahan, "hunting trips to Alaska are a gift, and you’ve abused that gift."

In October 2002, Special Agents of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Office of Law Enforcement and Wisconsin DNR Conservation Wardens interviewed the Wisconsin hunters and seized evidence including videotapes, two big game rifles, a brown bear skull and two mounted Alaska brown bears.

Assistant United States Attorney Gordon Giampietro represented the United States Attorneys Office in the case.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 96-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


Contact Info: Larry Dean, 612-713-5312, Larry_Dean@fws.gov
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