By Keith Giles
Nantahala District Ranger Mike Wilkins was among U.S. Forest Service employees who were recognized Tuesday during the Regional Forester’s Award Ceremony in Atlanta.
Wilkins was part of the team that received the Law Enforcement and Investigations Award for their part in the bear poaching crackdown known as Operation Something Bruin.
Other team members from western North Carolina who received the award include: Brian Southard, Rick Devore, Teresa Moss, and Andy Brinkley
Operation Something Bruin is a long-term covert investigation and successful prosecution of illegal bear poaching that will have lasting positive impacts on all Southern Area national forests. This year, state and federal wildlife officials in North Carolina and Georgia announced the success of the undercover operation that involved about 80 wildlife violators and some 980 violations. Primary violations documented by Operation Something Bruin stemmed from illegal bear hunting, but included an array of state wildlife and game law charges. Dozens of arrests were made, and some suspects faced federal charges.