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Bear Poaching Case Leads to Federal Conviction and Prison


WILMINGTON, N.C. – Surveillance and investigation into bear poaching in eastern North Carolina by officers of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has led to a federal firearms conviction.

Michael Augustus Comstock, 50, of Columbia, N.C. was sentenced Sept. 17 in U.S. District Court to six years and six months in prison for possession of a firearm by a felon, plus three years supervised probation upon his release.

Comstock pleaded guilty Oct. 6 in state court to hunting during a closed season, which resulted in a $2,000 fine, replacement costs of $2,232 and suspension of his hunting license for two years, effective beginning when released from federal penitentiary. He was also required to pay court costs of $121.

Wildlife officers cite this case as an example of the success in statewide efforts to safeguard game resources and sportsmen. As bear hunting season prepares to open in various regions, they will continue to emphasize enforcement efforts.

Officers also point out the important role sportsmen and the general public can play in reporting violations, by calling the toll free, 24-hour hotline at 1-800-662-7137.

The first segment of western bear season is Oct. 13-Nov. 22; the first segment of eastern bear seasons opens varying upon county, consult the 2008-’09 regulations digest for local dates and details or call (919) 707-0031.

Sgt. Mark Cagle of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission led the Tyrrell County investigation, which began April 2007. A stakeout led to apprehension of a suspect and collection of evidence, including a recently killed bear, a stolen 12-guage shotgun that had been recently fired, a 55-gallon barrel of peanut butter, a 55-gallon barrel of bubblegum and 55-gallon barrel of peppermint candy, as well as observation of hunting dogs released at the bait site where the bear was killed that same morning.

Forensic testing by State Bureau of Investigation revealed the slug that killed the bear matched the stolen shotgun.

In addition to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, the investigation was conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Wildlife officers involved, along with Sgt. Cagle, were Sgt. Mark Rich, Robert Wayne, George Owens, Sgt. Ed Alston, Tim Wadsworth, Jim Schreckengost, Brian White and Nathan Green.

A federal grand jury returned a criminal indictment on Nov. 17, 2007 charging a felon with possession of a firearm. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Bragdon served as prosecutor for the government. On June 16, 2008 after a four-day trial before a federal jury, Comstock was found guilty.

U.S. attorneys recently sent a letter commending the diligence, investigative skills and ethics of the wildlife officers to Col. Kenneth Everhart, chief of the Division of Enforcement for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission.

“I appreciate this recognition of our officers and their role in this case,” Col. Everhart said. “The level of commitment and hard work by these wildlife officers was outstanding. I also appreciate the efforts by federal prosecutors and the cooperating law enforcement agencies in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”



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