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May 28, 2014

3 accused of unlawful killing of black bear

PORTAGE — Three men are being charged with the unlawful and out-of-season shooting death of an unthreatening black bear earlier this month in Portage, as shown by an affidavit of probable cause filed Wednesday with the office of District Judge Galen Decort.

Officer Seth Mesoras of the Pennsylvania Game Commission charged Travis Michael Watt, 20, whose street address is listed in the 700 block of Church Street in Gallitzin, and his brother, Robert Charles Watt, 18, of Claysburg.

Authorities responded to the Portage home of Justin Patrick Radcliffe, 24, where an anonymous caller claimed the bear was shot in the early morning and later butchered. Although they found no one at the residence, neighbors corroborated the anonymous information.

According to statements from the defendants, Radcliffe came home in the early morning on May 4 to find a black bear rifling through his trash. The affidavit states Radcliffe called Travis Watt and told him to come to his house and bring “the biggest gun you have.”

Authorities later confirmed that Travis Watt was the shooter. Robert Watt aided by holding up a flashlight as the defendants and other unidentified females shouted at the creature. According to the affidavit, when the bear reared up, Travis fired a round from a .30-06 rifle.

The bear hunched over, and the mob screamed for Travis Watt to shoot again. After another shot, the bear attempted to escape up a nearby tree. Travis Watt’s third shot dropped the bear from the tree, killing it.

Authorities wrapped up loose ends like the bear’s limbs and ear tags and the weapon used to kill it – both the tags and the rifle were stashed away by the defendants when they learned an investigation was pending. The gun was hidden in a locked trailer on the Glendale Boat Sales property, where the brothers work, the report said.

Travis and Robert Watt butchered the animal, according to the report, sending body parts and portions of meat to others outside the area, and dumped the head, front shoulder and hide in different places.

The Watt brothers and Radcliffe are charged with the unlawful killing or taking of big game. As the charge is a misdemeanor, arrest warrants will not be issued.

A court date is pending.

Justin Dennis covers Portage Borough for The Tribune-Democrat. Folow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.

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