SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — Nevada County prosecutors have filed criminal charges against two California men accused of illegally killing a black bear near the edge of the Eldorado National Forest about 30 miles southwest of Lake Tahoe.
Authorities say 43-year-old Jason Wilkison of Grass Valley and 54-year-old Christopher Nunley of North San Juan were the targets of a five-month-long poaching investigation.
They’ve been charged with misdemeanor unlawful possession and killing of a bear as well as felony charges for unlawfully possessing firearms. They’re accused of luring the bear with bait to a home near Grizzly Flat before they shot it in April.
The two didn’t have bear tags or hunting licenses.
“I won’t call them hunters because they are not,” District Attorney Cliff Newell told the (Grass Valley) Union.
The Nevada County Sheriff’s Office assisted wildlife officers in serving a series of search warrants that led to the discovery of bear remains, some in a shallow grave near Wilkison’s residence and others at Nunley’s residence, prosecutors said.
“There are indications that they originally tried to butcher the bear and skin it and then tried to get rid of it,” said Mark Michilizzi, a California Department of Fish & Wildlife warden.
Jerry Karnow, another wildlife warden who led the investigation, said the CDFW forensic laboratory was involved in an analysis of the blood and bear remains.
“They just thought they could kill a bear, and it made some people that knew about it mad,” Karnow said.
“We were not able to recover paws, the head or the whole hide,” he said. “It is unique how all these body parts and the DNA puts it all together as one animal.”
In addition to allegedly killing the bear months after the end of bear season, using bait to lure the animal is illegal. Both suspects are convicted felons and were prohibited from possession firearms or ammunition, Newell said.
Wilkison’s court cases in Nevada County date to 1999 with a prior possession of firearm by a felon charge.
Nunley’s record stems to 1984 and includes possession of controlled substances and a driving under the influence charge, according to court records.
Nunley was recently arrested in July after a tip led authorities to his residence on Walls Flat Road, where they discovered guns, ammunition and a home-made battle mace — a spiked ball attached to a chain.
Karnow indicated that a third party may have been involved with the poaching. Michilizzi said the ongoing investigation could yield further arrests and charges.