Case dropped against man who shot black bear

COSHOCTON -- The Coshocton Law Director James R. Skelton agreed to dismiss the first degree misdemeanor charge filed against John C. Tanksley of Newcomerstown for unlawful taking of an endangered species.

Tanksley was originally charged by wildlife officers after shooting a black bear on July 23, 2008, at 2 a.m. when he was awaken to discover the bear and his dog clamoring outside his residence on Township Road 244. The Coshocton Law Director agreed not to refile the charge so long as Tanksley paid the Division of Wildlife $1,000, which is the statutory restitution value for a black bear.

Tanksley said, "Hindsight is 20/20, but I really think I responded to the circumstances the way most people would have in my situation. I mean I woke up to find my dog and a bear making a ruckus outside. Kia (the dog) and the bear ran off about 100 yards, and I didn't grab my rifle until I saw the bear coming back following Kia. I had tried to get my dog under control and in the house but was never able to. I didn't raise my rifle until the bear was about 20 yards from me and began to bounce toward me and show aggression. I didn't shoot until he had closed to about seven yards."

Tanksley shot the bear three times and immediately called law enforcement.

Tanksley added, "I really believe a jury would have seen things my way, but I can't complain if the prosecutor dismisses the charge. I would have had to pay my attorney more to try the case than I have to pay the wildlife officials for the restitution."

The court also ordered Tanksley's rifle returned to him.

Tanksley's attorney, Ryan Styer, also of Newcomerstown, commented, "We are pleased with the outcome. John never had any criminal intent and used reasonable means to protect himself and his property." Styer added, "We were very eager to try the case Wednesday, but the State offered a deal that John simply could not refuse. The charge is dismissed with no cost to John other than to pay the statutory restitution amount."