Bear Conservation photo

File photo courtesy of National Park Service/Flickr

It seems as if the ringleader of Montana’s largest bear-poaching ring wanted to get caught: James Harrison, of Darby, Montana, initiated the investigation last June when he contacted local game wardens and reported that two of his hunting partners, Richard Sublette and Kyle L. Whyard, had unlawfully baited and killed a bear in the Trail Creek area of the Big Hole Valley.

According to The Missoulian, after officers uncovered two bears, authorities received an anonymous call informing them that Harrison was the one baiting the bears. Once confronted, Harrison admitted to baiting and killing nine bears between 2009 and 2014.

Harrison pleaded guilty to felony charges of unlawful possession of a game animal and faces a maximum of 45 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, Harrison is accused of tampering with a witness, two counts of tampering with public records, and tampering with photographic evidence, according to The Missoulian. He remains free until sentencing Aug. 28.

Sublette and Whyard pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges. Sublette was sentenced to 180 days in jail, 173 days suspension, and $3,705 in fines and restitution. His hunting privileges were revoked for five years, as well. Whyard was sentenced to six months in jail and will pay $5,105 in fines and restitution. His hunting and trapping privileges were also revoked.

While Montana has had its fair share of poaching cases over the years, this one takes the cake.