Second Amendment

Should You Be Busted For Blasting a Bear in Your Backyard? Asks J.D. Tuccille on The Sportsman Channel

|

Black bear
Ryan E. Poplin

I'll appear (well, my voice will, by phone) on NRANews Cam & Co. on The Sportsman Channel at 5:15 ET today to discuss the case of Richard Ahlstrand, who faces a grab-bag of criminal charges after shooting a bear in his Auburn, Massachusetts, backyard. The bear was apparently attracted by a drum of birdseed, so he's been charged with "baiting" the creature. Ahlstrand's Firearms Identification Card had expired, so that paperwork violation has landed him two gun charges. And the local police chief thinks that bears are cute, cuddly, and not dangerous at all, so shooting the seven-foot tall, 300-400 pound creature has become a separate charge.

The conversation should be interesting.

NEXT: Hakken Family Back in U.S. Custody

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I looked into bringing my guns here when I moved. MA gun laws are crazy.

  2. I’ve had to deal with bears in my yard too. You just can’t shoot them whenever you want – unless they are truly threatening a person.

    1. “You just can’t shoot them whenever you want – unless they are truly threatening a person.”
      I presume you give them a questionnaire?

      1. No, but you damn sure better be ready to answer a lot of questions from the state cops if you decide to shoot.

        1. Yeah, dealing with fascist cops is a pain.

          1. It’s also a risk.

        2. Cop: Why did you shoot the bear?

          Me: Well, he made a furtive movement after bracing himself. I read in the newspaper just the other day that a policeman had the exact thing happen to him in Seattle with a woodcarver carrying a 2″ pocketknife and he shot him in fear of his life. I figured I’d just follow the cop’s advice.

          Cop: Thank you, sir. Have a nice day.

          1. “I thought it was a dog.”

          2. Cop: Why did you shoot the bear?

            Me: Well, he made a furtive movement after bracing himself. I read in the newspaper just the other day that a policeman had the exact thing happen to him in Seattle with a woodcarver carrying a 2″ pocketknife and he shot him in fear of his life. I figured I’d just follow the cop’s advice.

            Win.

  3. I, for one, support the right to arm bears.

    1. That’s just plain ursinine.

      1. Yeah. Bad puns can really bruin a thread.

        1. Bad puns? Is there any other kind?

          1. He shot Boo Boo…f’ing facist

          2. Does the pope shit in the woods?

            1. This one might – it sure would be humble enough.

            2. Is it ok to yell movie in a crowded firehouse?

              1. Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?

                1. No, not if the animal crackers are GMO riddled.

                  1. Good. Less demand for animal crackers from the anti-GMOtards means more on the shelves, and for a lesser price.

  4. For a few years growing up, we lived really high up in the foothills of Sierra Madre, CA and our neighbor woke up from footsteps on his roof. He went outside with his shotgun expecting it to be a theif or person, it ended up being a mountain lion with the family dog in his mouth. He laid waste to that cat right quick. It was a pretty intense morning on our street.

    1. I know what you’re thinking, and no, it wasn’t a Policeman in a mountain lion costume. We have to remember, family dogs die of other things too.

      1. Police have trained catamounts now?

      2. The cat was just following procedures.

        1. Offeliner safety.

  5. “And the local police chief thinks that bears are cute, cuddly, and not dangerous at all”

    Next time a large ursine is in the area, we can have the chief go hug it.

  6. As the most vocal proponent of animal welfare here, I’m going on the record as saying that as a matter of general principle I have absolutely no problem whatsoever with killing dangerous animals that are on your property or threatening people or livestock/pets.

    1. Tell those animals they should get off their asses and get a job.

      1. *squints fiercely at Alack*

    2. What caught my eye is the baiting charge having a drum of bird seed in the yard. I have one of those and it sure as hell isn’t for bears. Would my vegetable garden be considered baiting too?

      1. “Would my vegetable garden be considered baiting too?”
        If you gave the cops any back-chat, they’d figure *you* were the bait.

  7. The dude should blame our betters. Ronald Reagan’s “Bear in the Woods” TV ad coupled with Joe Biden’s “shotgun off the deck” talk pretty much gives us cover to do what this guy did.

  8. What needs to be dispelled is the Marxist mush that “the sovereign owns all wildlife”. Yes, there are some big time posters here who have peddled that pathetic propaganda.

    1. When that guy let all the animals out of his zoo and killed himself last year the cops had themselves an African hunting expedition. And they all got medals of freedom and some tigerskin rugs. This guy gets a cell.

  9. Why wasn’t the bear charged with trespassing the first time it was on the property?

    1. Duh, he invited it in. Birdseed is an attractive nuisance, so anything that happens to someone who has it is their own fault.

      1. Birdseed is an attractive nuisance? Bah. A 50 gallon barrel of pic-a-nik baskets? Maybe.

        The bear was still in the wrong. Attractive nuisance isn’t applicable when there is intent to steal.

        1. The bear might be working a prior claim to title based on his status as a native American.

          1. Then the bear should have gone to court rather than trespass with intent. His third-cousin Elizabeth Warren is a tribal lawyer, right?

              1. The original owner was not excluded and the bear’s presence was not public or long enough to satisfy a statue time limit.

                Squatter’s right. Does the bear even squat, bro?

                1. “Why wasn’t the bear charged with trespassing the first time it was on the property?”

                  Because it’s an invasive species?

                  1. Because it’s an invasive species?

                    The bears were here first.

            1. *a tribal lawyer*
              That’s good enough for a repeat.

        2. It’s also usually only applied to kids. If the bear were an adult, then I don’t see that doctrine applying. The bear was a trespasser, and the homeowner was in fear for his life. I don’t think a murder charge will stick.

        3. I basically said this in the previous thread and got shit for it, but it sounds like the authorities believe that this guy actually baited the bear with the intention of killing it, and then played dumb afterwards. Say what you will about the justness of the law, but if that’s what they think the evidence shows, then they really are just in “cops doing their jobs” territory.

          1. With a tub of bird seed? Fuck you, Thom. If the local cops ever arrested me for something so trivial I would rape all of their third cousins on their mothers side while making their doughnuts watch.

            1. That’s my point. On it’s face, this guys story induces rage. I’d just like to hear what the coppers have to say before I get all worked in a tizzy. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have evidence that shows this guy was actually trying to bait and kill bears.

              And I say this as somebody who rarely ever gives cops the benefit of the doubt.

              1. bait bears with a drum of birdseed? seriously? If he was intentionally baiting bears, I would think he would use something with a bit more attractive power. Even thouh this obviously had some attractive power.

  10. I’m thinking his real crime was depriving agents of the state of an opportunity to kill something.

    1. This fiasco is yet another example to which I can point and tell you that the average bear (don’t shoot me!) was far more free in 1912 than today.

      1. In 1912 I doubt there were many, if any, restrictions on peasants killing the king’s animals.

      2. In 1912, there were very few bears in New England.

  11. Bears can be a pain in the ass. Once they start going to your house for food the only way to stop it is to either kill them or remove all food sources from your property for several weeks straight. No trash cans. No bird seed. No BBQ ashes. No lapses. Like raptors, they remember.

    1. Clever girl…

  12. Well, a good reason to kill such a bear is so that it does not become accustomed to wandering on human property. Today it’s snacking on bird seed. Tomorrow it could be snacking on your pet dog or your 5 year old kid.

    1. Black bears are very rarely aggressive toward people. But yeah, it is still a bad idea to let them be comfortable around people.

  13. Pure idiocy.

    Let’s imagine for a second that the man refrained from shooting the bear, and went back to hide inside his house. Then the bear wandered next door and ate a few of the neighbor’s kids.

    Better outcome?

    1. oh wow Matrix, you beat me by one minute with the same general idea.

      Great minds and all that, what?

      1. some econuts value animal life over human life. So self defense is not justifiable for them.

        1. This doesn’t strike me so much as eco nuttery as it does “let’s write a gazillion laws so that everyone is always guilty of at least something, just in case.”

          1. There was an incident several years ago in which firefighters were killed because the EPA would not allow the local fightfighters to draw water from a nearby source because it might interfere with an endangered fish. So, yeah, they burned alive. That was better than letting a few fish possibly die.

            Also, IIRC, those fish were only endangered in the area, but were thriving in other areas.

            1. As a former firefighter, I would vote against this kind of death.

            2. What, was the EPA there with guns to their heads? I would have just said “fuck the EPA” and done it anyway. Could hardly have worse consequences than having your colleagues burn to death.

    2. That would never happen…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L…..ack_bear_2

  14. “And the local police chief thinks that bears are cute, cuddly, and not dangerous at all, so shooting the seven-foot tall, 300-400 pound creature has become a separate charge.”

    J.D., I like the sarcasm and mockery, but it would also be nice have a clearer description of the charge. Is it discharging a firearm, hate crime (bear was black, right?), etc.

  15. So are they alleging that the “baiting” was deliberate?

    1. I don’t believe mens rea matters anymore.

      1. That’s another measure of liberty; mens rea mattered more in 1912 than today.

        How long before some commenter posts, “if you were a white man”?

      2. The idea that there can be so many crimes without mens rea is more than a little distressing.

    2. If they charge him with baiting, they have to charge everyone with a bird house with baiting, or at least “attempted baiting”.

      Also, I’m guessing that if his firearms identification card was expired, and he had gone down to renew it, he wouldn’t be charged with the ‘crime’ of “expired firearms identification card”.

      I fail to see how having an expired card becomes a greater crime just because he had to defend himself from a bear.

      Infuriating.

      1. All he had to do was refuse to answer the door and yell: “Go away! ‘Batin’!”

  16. This guy should be freed…I love animals as well but not at the risk of a human life or possible injury in summary – Fuck that Bear, the cops, and the government in general

  17. Recently, while a family was participating in a controlled hunt in Teton National Park (yes, they have those), a grizzly bear started charging them for an elk carcass. They shot the bear dead, and reported it to the rangers. There were no charges. Of course, the bear was running straight at them and only a few feet away.

    1. I learned in South Park you just have to shout: “It’s coming right for us!”, and then you are free to shoot.

      1. that’s how I get rid of hippies

        1. It’s the only way they’ll respect your authoritah.

  18. I store feed in 55 gal barrels. If an animal breaks into my farm and goes for the good, which is inside a coop but in the open air, that fucker is going down.

    1. Just like Joe Frazier!

  19. OT: I got into a bit of an argument with a gun-grabber yesterday. He pulled the old, “it only means weapons that were available in the late 18th century” canard.

    I replied that I would be happy to be restricted to placing cannons loaded with grapeshot around the perimeter of my property and to discharge it if trespassed upon. He replied that that’s not what the founders meant either, even though I produced proof that private citizens often owned their own cannons for self-defense purposes.

    He called me a gun nut and huffed away.

    1. So I guess freedom of press only means the type of press they had back then, which were put in by hand and physically pressed onto paper?

      I guess Freedom of Speech only means 18th century English and has to be spoken, not on the internet or even ‘expression’?

    2. Shoulda just shot him.

    3. Did he flounce as well? Because I’ve noticed they do that a lot.

  20. The bear shooting is probably justified, but he’s an idjit for letting his FID card expire. That gives the state an easy charge to pin on him. Remember, for example, in the bernie goetz case, all they got him on was the firearms charge. In this case, it’s going to be similar – if it’s expired, it’s expired. It’s about as non-arbitrary with that violation as you can get.

    Granted, one shouldn’t need ANY sort of “card” to possess and use a shotgun, let alone on one’s own property, but this is the people’s republic of Mass. we are talking about here. It’s incredibly capricious. When I was working as a part time cop, I applied for a license to carry for protection of “life and property” (which allows carry 24/7) in the town I lived in. Police chief, a NY transport denied it saying he saw no “need”, but would issue one for “target” practice only. Yes, that’s right “cops get double standard” fans, even as a cop in a neighboring town, the chief wouldn’t issue me a license to carry. He was straight up with me, told me he was against people carrying “without good need” and told me the last such permit he issued was for a jeweler who routinely carried large quantities of the stuff.

    I promptly rented a studio two towns over, in lovely Chilmark MA, where I knew the chief and he was very firearms friendly – boom, instant License to Carry.

    1. Ridiculous.

      Ime, folks in rural Mass. are pretty common sense, and they know bullshit when they see it and the bear shooting charge is bullshit. Hopefully, they do see through it and they are either pressured into dropping the charges.

      I’d love to know if there is more to this story, because it just doesn’t make sense that they’d charge the guy without some sort of backstory ime like they have a strong hunch he was baiting but can’t prove it, unless this chief is just an asshat, and it’s certainly possible.

  21. Sloopy: OT: I got into a bit of an argument with a gun-grabber yesterday. He pulled the old, “it only means weapons that were available in the late 18th century” canard.


    I try to avoid political arguments in the real world (apart from like… here). More power to you.

    I’m pretty heartened by the overwhelming positive reaction to OPEN CARRY here in my state. Been reading the Open Carry forum and the WA posts (people post about their experiences open carrying as they go about their day to day chores) are overwhelmingly full of positive experiences.

    Iow, guys who open carry are usually met with “gee, you can do that legally? That’s cool!” type reaction. Sometimes, store clerks will tell them it’s against store policy, and when they ask to speak to a manager, the clerk is almost always overturned. Starbux famously decided to support local laws in regards to gun carry in their stores, and that seems to be the experience across WA. Granted, not a lot of these anecdotes are from people who live in downtown Seattle.

    1. What’s pretty typical is open carrier will be waiting in line and somebody will kind of do a double take (a lot of people are so oblivious they just don’t notice the gun right in front of their face), but it’s rarely a nasty reaction, usually just a curious one. Also, on the open carry forum, there is the occasional anecdote of some cop being an asshat to them, but that’s becoming more and more rare. Most law enforcement are finally up to speed that open carry is to be respected in WA. The forum makes that pretty clear in the anecdotes.

      One of my partners frequently open carries and he’s never had a negative reaction. He does his shopping, etc. and nobody says boo to him apart from an occasional thumbs up/”right on” reaction. It’s pretty encouraging that the populace of what is traditionally regarded as a liberal state (contrast with say, AZ) seems to be on board with, if largely unfamiliar with, open carry.

      The great thing about open carry is it prompts people to engage in discussion, and it increases people’s knowledge of their rights, which is always a good thing

  22. I don’t know which is more foolish: leaving a container of food outside or thinking a 300# predator is cute defenseless animal.

  23. A white homeowner shoots a black bear, giving us a story about how he feared for his life. Sounds like Trayvon Martin all over again.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.