Three men pleaded guilty Tuesday to an unlawful and out-of-season shooting death of a docile black bear that occurred in late May.
The preliminary hearing for Justin Radcliffe, 24, of Portage, Travis Watt, 20, of Gallitzin, and his brother, Robert Watt, 18, of Claysburg, was held before District Judge Galen Decort. Each assumed one charge of unlawful killing or taking of big game and now face more than $2,000 in restitution to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and court fines, according to court documents.
As the charge is a misdemeanor, the trio will not face jail time.
An anonymous caller tipped off the authorities to the slaughter.
Once game commission officers caught up with the suspects, they confessed to killing then butchering the creature and hiding its remains around the area. They also passed off bags of meat and limbs to out-of-town acquaintances.
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 filed by Decort’s office 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.
The rifle used to slay the bear was hidden in a locked trailer on the Glendale Boat Sales property, where the Watt brothers were employed at the time.
Justin Dennis covers Portage Borough for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.