Hunting guides fined for baiting black bears in Garrett Co.

Hunting guides fined for baiting black bears in Garrett Co.

Two hunting guides who pleaded guilty to illegally baiting black bears in Garrett County were fined thousands of dollars and ordered to do 25 hours of community service on Thursday, prosecutors said.

Larry Eugene Harding, 57, of Friendsville, and Wallace A. Harward, 58, of Forest Hill, were ordered to pay $8,000 and $5,000, respectively, in fines and restitution for violating strict state black bear hunting regulations, the Maryland U.S. Attorney's office said.

Undercover officers from the Maryland Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service posed as clients of the two hunting guides and discovered that they were illegally using bait to attract the bears for clients to shoot and violating regulations that require a sublicensee on black bear hunting permits to be in view of the licensee, prosecutors said.

During the October 2009 hunt, one of the undercover officers shot a bear from a spot overlooking a pile of apples the guides had used as bait, and Harding was out of sight when the other hunter shot his bear, prosecutors said. Later, the bear carcasses were taken to a cooler where the undercover officer also saw garbage cans full of apple skins and cores similar to the bait pile, prosecutors said.

Harding and Harward were each sentenced to five years of probation, during which they are banned from guiding commercial hunts, and they may not hunt personally for three years.

Neither could be reached immediately for comment Thursday night.

Maryland is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, so the ban goes for 44 other states in the U.S. during the term of their suspensions, the NRP said. Harward's Maryland waterfowl outfitters license is also revoked, and he is prohibited from renewing it during the term of his hunting suspension, prosecutors said.

"The combined penalties in this case represent one of the most substantial sentences for a Maryland wildlife poaching case in more than two decades," Col. George F. Johnson of the NRP said in a release.

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