Wetumpka man charged with killing bear during closed season

Black bears are a protected species in Alabama.
Published: Sep. 21, 2023 at 3:45 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 21, 2023 at 5:55 PM CDT
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ELMORE COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - An Elmore County man is facing state and federal charges after allegedly shooting and killing a wild black bear, according to the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office.

“The person responsible for shooting and killing the bear has been arrested,” the sheriff’s office said on social media, noting that several citizens had contacted the office after the animal was killed in the Wallsboro community.

Police identified the suspect as Michael Watkins, 32, of Wetumpka. He’s charged with hunting after dark and hunting during closed season.

An investigation is underway by the Alabama State Department of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.

Watkins was booked in the Elmore County Jail on a $7,000 bond Thursday but was released within three hours.

“Hopefully this arrest will send a message and deter future wildlife regulation violations related to Alabama’s black bear population,” said Matt Weathers, Chief of Enforcement with the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR). “If you see a black bear, just leave it alone. We want them in Alabama.”

According to Outdoor Alabama, while black bears are classified as a game animal in Alabama, there’s no set hunting season for them. The bears are protected by state law because of their low population numbers.

Alabama law prohibits shooting black bears, providing for criminal penalties including fines of at least $2,000, jail time, and possible loss of hunting and fishing licenses.

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