9/14/2019

Monroe County, Tenn. wildlife officers, along with USDA Forest Service Officers from the Cherokee National Forest, have closed a bear baiting case. A bear bait site was located and documented in 2016 in the Cherokee National Forest, South Cherokee WMA. It is illegal to place bait on a WMA and to hunt any big game over bait anywhere in the state of Tennessee. In 2018, another illegal bear bait site was located, which was almost identical to the one documented in 2016. Wire was strung around five feet high between two trees. Plastic grocery bags were tied along the wire and the bags were filled with a mixture of chocolate candies and at times meat product. Sardine cans and carcass remnants were also nailed to trees within the site. In mid-2018 TWRA and Forest Service officers discovered a large baited steel cage trap. Trees had also been cut to make a trigger for the steel cage trap. Officers determined five different individuals had hunted, placed bait, installed and checked the trap at this site. Wildlife Officers were able to identify the five individuals as Terry Worth McJunkin, Kieth Bernard McJunkin, Rollie Kimsey West, Levi Zachary Wilson and Joseph Don Taylo. All individuals are from Tellico Plains. Later in the year officers identified a sixth person as Derrick Franklin Cathey of Tellico Plains. The six men were charged with wildlife crimes ranging from hunting over bait, placing bait on a wildlife management area, hunting big game in closed season, trapping in closed season, destroying government property and maintaining a trail on National Forest system land. On September 4 Keith McJunkin and Levi Wilson were found guilty by the Judge H. Bruce Guyton of baiting bears inside the Cherokee National Forest. Each man was sentenced to two years probation and banned from hunting anywhere or entering any national forest for a period of two years. McJunkin was also ordered to pay $1,600 in fines, and Wilson was ordered to pay $1,100 in fines. Terry McJunkin, Joseph Taylor and Derrick F. Cathey each previously pleaded guilty to hunting bear over bait. Terry McJunkin was sentenced to five years probation with a five-year hunting ban and five-year national-forest ban and ordered to pay $4,000 in fines. Taylor and Cathey were each sentenced to two years probation with a one-year hunting ban and one-year national-forest ban. Taylor was also ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and $250 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service. Cathey was ordered to pay $250 in fines. Officer Kip Kite said, “All officers involved are to be commended for stopping this illegal, poaching activity. We’re grateful for the tremendous partnership with the Forest Service and we are determined to continue efforts to halt all poaching, illegal activity on all our Wildlife Management Areas and National Forest lands. We’re grateful for the Department of Justice and US Attorney’s Office for their effort in prosecuting wildlife cases.”

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