A 35-year-old man was sentenced Friday to a year and eight months in prison after pleading guilty to illegally hunting deer, black bears, hogs and other wildlife in Nantahala National Forest and elsewhere in Graham County
Prosecutors said David Chadwick Crisp of Graham County and conspirators used such illegal hunting techniques as spotlights, bear-baiting with chocolate and equipping a bait barrel with a dog collar that could then be used to track the bear. The men also illegally hunted at night and out of season, U.S. Attorney Anne Tompkins said.
Crisp pleaded guilty Friday to four offenses involving illegal hunting in the national forest, another on Fontana Lake, and a boating violation on the lake.
According to court records, to conceal his illegal hunting from law enforcement, Crisp took further measures, such as keeping a “throw-away” rifle hidden in a hollow tree to avoid detection entering and leaving with a gun.
When an undercover agent told Crisp there would probably be a lot of bears around, but that bear hunting there is illegal, Crisp responded, “You can if you don’t get caught,” court records state.
Another time, court records show, Crisp told an undercover agent that he hadn’t tagged a bear yet, even though he helped kill four bears and killed one by himself.
The offenses happened between November 2010 and October 2012, prosecutors said.
Crisp was ordered to serve a year’s probation after he’s released from prison, pay $3,000 in fines and surrender his N.C. hunting and fishing licenses for a year.
Earlier Friday, Crisp pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor Lacey Act violation that involved the illegal transportation of an American black bear that Crisp knew had been killed in the national forest in violation of state and federal laws, Tompkins said.
Crisp agreed that when he’s eventually sentenced on that charge, he’ll pay $2,232 to the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission as restitution for one of the black bears he killed.
Following Crisp’s guilty plea and in announcing Crisp’s sentence, U.S. Magistrate Dennis Howell in Asheville said he’d never seen “this quantity or level of wildlife violations.”
On Oct. 9, Crisp also was convicted of aiding and abetting the illegal placement of chocolate for bear bait in Nantahala. He was sentenced to 90 days in jail and ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
On Sept. 5, Walter Stancil and Jerry Parker were convicted of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act and are awaiting sentencing.
On Oct. 2, Stancil was convicted of removing Forest Service property – a game camera that was set up on one of his bear bait sites. He was sentenced to 15 days in jail.
Another defendant, Jerry Parker, pleaded guilty Thursday to illegally conducting a commercial enterprise – a bear hunting guide service – in Nantahala without a commercial special use permit. He was fined $1,500 and ordered to forfeit his N.C. hunting and fishing license for two years. He was banned from hunting and fishing in the state for two years.
Conducting the investigations were the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.