Poachers receive lifetime hunt ban

Two Jackson County poachers received lifetime hunting bans in Oregon and throughout much of the country after pleading guilty to misdemeanor crimes of hunting bears with dogs or bait.

In racking up their second violation in two years of Oregon's 16-year-old ban on using hounds to hunt cougars and bears as well as baiting bears, 42-year-old Terry Clearwater and 37-year-old Brian Gerke received mandatory lifetime suspensions of their hunting privileges in Oregon.

Oregon has joined 30 states in the Wildlife Violator Compact, in which they honor each other's hunting and angling suspensions. That means Clearwater and Gerke's lifetime bans also will keep them from hunting throughout most of the West, Midwest and South.

The pair also were sentenced last week to probation, fines and community service for their crimes.

Clearwater, of Butte Falls, and Gerke, of Shady Cove, were the targets of a 2008 undercover investigation by Oregon State Police troopers who believed the pair were partners in an operation that illegally used bait and hounds to kill bears and cougars, according to the OSP.

Undercover officers never did meet Clearwater, but records show they listened to Gerke speak of Clearwater's poaching exploits, police records show.

As part of the operation, Gerke led two undercover officers on a failed bear hunt in which Gerke used a pile of molasses, bread and a dead deer to illegally lure in a bear, records show.

In March 2009, troopers searched Gerke's home and seized 60 items of evidence, including black-tailed deer mounts and skins, police said.

Gerke was indicted on 15 counts of wildlife violations for a string of crimes, while Clearwater was indicted for the killing of a black bear with dogs in March 2008 near Shady Cove, court records show.

Clearwater pleaded no contest to a single count of hunting bear with dogs and was sentenced to two years' probation and 64 hours of community service and ordered to pay $1,340 in fines and restitution.

Gerke pleaded guilty to three counts of hunting bears or cougars with dogs or bait, as well as one count of illegal possession of wildlife. He was sentenced to two years' probation and ordered to do 64 hours of community service and pay $2,001 in fines and restitution.

Clearwater and Gerke each pleaded guilty to similar charges for illegally using dogs to pursue and shoot a cougar in the Shady Cove area, records show.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail at mfreeman@mailtribune.com.

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