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St. Petersburg Man Fined, Sentenced for Killing Black Bear in Wildlife Refuge

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Law enforcement officers took DNA samples of the blood from the kill site and matched it with DNA samples taken from the bear carcass in Florida.

ANCHORAGE, AL – A federal judge has sentenced a St. Petersburg man who shot and killed a black bear in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, which is part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, an area closed to all hunting and trapping, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

James L. Connolly, 63, of St. Petersburg, was sentenced Monday (June 15) after he previously pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act. U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew M. Scoble ordered Connolly to pay a fine of $8,000, and, as part of his sentence, he agreed to forfeit the black bear hide. Connolly will also serve a two-year term of probation, during which he is prohibited from hunting anywhere in the U.S.

According to court documents, on May 17, 2018, Connolly shot and killed the black bear in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area on the Kenai Peninsula, an area closed to all hunting and trapping. Connolly then transported the bear carcass from Alaska to a tannery in California, which then shipped the carcass to Connolly in Florida.

The investigation revealed that eyewitnesses had seen the remains of a black bear that had been killed on Skilak Lake Loop Road, and others had seen and spoken with Connolly, who told them he recently shot and killed a black bear in the area. Law enforcement officers took DNA samples of the blood from the kill site and matched it with DNA samples taken from the bear carcass in Connolly’s possession in Florida.

At the sentencing hearing, Scoble noted the importance of protecting Alaska’s natural resources and “the wild spaces” in the U.S. He also commented that Connolly’s actions were particularly “abhorrent” under the circumstances. Specifically, that an individual would travel to Alaska from Florida with the intent to hunt and kill a wild animal, and not be aware of the proper areas he could legally take an animal.

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