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Guilty Finding in Unlawful Killing of Bighorn Sheep Case
07/01/2011
The following is a news release from Baker County District Attorney's Office
 
Baker County District Attorney Matt Shirtcliff announced that on June 30, 2011, Baker County Circuit Court Judge Greg Baxter found JAMES BRONSON JR, age 54, from Pendleton, guilty of two counts of Unlawful Taking of Wildlife: Bighorn Sheep and two counts of Unlawful Possession of Wildlife: Bighorn Sheep.  His ruling concluded a three-day trial.
 
BRONSON was charged in November 2008 based on an Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division investigation.  BRONSON killed a bighorn sheep in the Lookout Mountain Game Unit in December 2007 and again in September 2008.  The State contended that both Rams were killed near the Soda Lake area and Conner Creek.
 
The case involved several motion hearings in which Judge Baxter ruled that the ceded boundary of the Nez Perce was the hunting boundary.  The ceded boundary for the Nez Perce to the south is where the Powder River meets the Snake River near Richland, Oregon.  The case proceeded to trial in October 2009.  The case ended in a mistrial when Judge Baxter reversed his earlier decision and ruled that the State would not only have to prove that the sheep were killed outside the ceded boundary of the Nez Perce, but also that BRONSON did not kill the sheep on traditional aboriginal hunting grounds at the time of the Nez Perce Treaty in 1855.
 
During the three-day trial, the State called Dr. Stephen Dow Beckham, Professor of History at Lewis and Clark College in Portland.  Dr. Beckham is an expert in northwest Native American history.  The Defense called Dr. Allen Marshall who is a Professor of Anthropology at Lewis and Clark College in Lewiston, Idaho.  Dr. Beckham testified regarding his research into the Nez Perce tribe and other tribes in the area.  He testified that in his opinion, the Nez Perce did not use the area south of the Powder River in Oregon as aboriginal hunting grounds at the time of the treaty in 1855.
 
Judge Baxter sentenced BRONSON following the verdict.  BRONSON was sentenced to three years probation, twenty days in jail, and $15,866 in fines and costs.  The fines included $6,800 for each sheep totalling $13,600 in restitution to the Oregon Department of Fish &Wildlife.  He ws also ordered to pay at $1,000 fine for each count plus costs.  BRONSON's hunting rights through the State of Oregon were suspended for two years and he was ordered not to hunt outside the ceded boundary of the Nez Perce in Oregon.  If BRONSON violattes probation, he could receive an additional 170 days in jail on each count.
 
"I am very pleased with this verdict.  It is my hope that this sends a message that this type of illegal hunting activity will not be tolerated.  The bighorn sheep is a limited resource that is susceptible to loss through illegal hunting and disease.  The bighorn sheep must be protected to ensure opportunities for sustainable hunting in the future," said Shirtcliff.
 
Shirtcliff also extended his appreciation to OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers Brad Duncan and Chris Hawkins for their investigation into this case and Deputy District Attorney Chris Storz who also has provided valuable assistance for the nearly three years that their office has spent working on this case.