By Perry Backus
HAMILTON – A Darby man will serve 14 days in jail for his part in what’s been called the largest bear poaching case in state history.
Kyle L. Whyard, 26, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges Thursday as part of a plea agreement that dropped an equal number of counts before Ravalli County Justice of the Peace Jim Bailey.
Whyard is one of three Ravalli County men charged last July with killing nine black bears with the aid of bait.
James “Jimmy” Harrison has since been charged with five felonies. His case is currently working its way through District Court. Richard Sublette, 56, of Hamilton faces misdemeanor counts.
Whyard pleaded guilty to unlawful possession of a large game animal, aiding in wasting game meat and providing a false statement to law enforcement. All of the charges were misdemeanors.
Bailey sentenced Whyard to six months of jail with all but 14 days suspended.
Whyard was required to serve seven days starting Thursday and another seven within the next 45 days.
Whyard will also be required to pay $3,105 in fines and $2,000 in restitution. Bailey also revoked Whyard’s hunting and trapping privileges for five years.
The men were charged following an investigation that began last June after Harrison called a game warden to report that Whyard and Sublette had each killed a bear in the Trail Creek area of the Big Hole Valley. Harrison reported that both a male and female bear had been killed.
After the warden made arrangements to inspect the bears the next day, state officials received an anonymous call saying Harrison was in possession of a black bear just off the West Fork Road in Ravalli County.
The warden responded and found two bear carcasses dumped near Trapper Creek Road, according to a charging affidavit. The male and female animals had large chunks of meat removed, but still possessed ample quantities fit for human consumption.
One of the bears still had Whyard’s bear license wrapped to its leg.
The affidavit said Harrison eventually offered details on nine bears that he was involved in killing in Ravalli and Beaverhead counties between 2009 and 2014. Harrison was convicted on bear-baiting charges and other illegal activities in Beaverhead County last August.