Don't get me wrong, I love polar bears. Fact is, I have a Baccarat crystal polar bear on my desk (see photo above).
I also like panda bears, brown bears, and grizzlies.
Of course, on occasion, some of those furry fellas forget to stay on their side of the line and stray over onto ours and things don't always end well for the humans. On the other hand, a lot of those inter-species encounters are our fault and, unfortunately, things don't always go well for the bears.
As such, consider this oddball criminal case of 73-year-old Jenison, Michigan, resident Rodger Dale DeVries.
It seems that Mr. DeVries obtained a hunting license from the Nunavut Territory in Canada for the purpose of killing a polar bear from the Foxe Basin in November 2000. Hunter DeVries was apparently successful with his undertaking because he had the polar bear mounted as a trophy and stored in Canada.
Where In The World?: Sadly, I'm a bit geographically challenged. Where the hell is the Nunavut Territory? Ahh, I looked it up and learned that it's this big chunk of land that was separated in 1999 from the Northwest Territories. Hey, I used to watch Sgt. Preston of the Yukon when I was a kid. I remember the Northwest Territories and that wonderful dog King.
Okay, so I digress. (Like what else is new?)
Since May of 2008 when polar bears were listed under under the Endangered Species Act as "threatened", the Marine Mammal Protection Act ("MMPA") automatically prohibited the importation of polar bear parts or trophies for personal use from any part of Canada. That's good news for polar bears because they like their parts and don't relish the thought of becoming a trophy.
The Secretary of the Interior can make a determination that a given region is capable of maintaining a sustainable population level - which sounds to me like a green light to hunt down any animals so designated. Fortunately for polar bears but unfortunately for DeVries, the Secretary never made such a determination for polar bears from the Foxe River Basin. I guess that you can kill all the polar bears you can find in Canada as long as you don't import them as trophies or transport their parts back into the USA.
All of which may explain why DeVries stored his dead bear in Canada.
On July 3, 2007, DeVries traveled to Canada and picked up his polar bear trophy from a storage unit, and, along with his two minor grandsons, put the polar bear trophy in his own boat and traveled from Ontario, Canada, across the border to Raber Bay, Mich. Shortly after the July 4th holiday, DeVries again moved the bear trophy, this time to his home, and then sold the boat.
At the time of the motor boatin' of the dead bear trophy with the grandkids, DeVries allegedly knew that polar bears from the Foxe Basin could not be imported into the United States and that he was breaking the law.
Another Bill Singer Digression: I dunno about you but I was truly intrigued to read of the illegal boat transportation into the USA by a grandad and his two minor grandchildren of a polar bear trophy taken from a storage unit in Canada. You just don't read things like that everyday in my rustic hometown of Manhattan Island.
At some point, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Office of Law Enforcement investigated the comings and goings of DeVries' polar bear trophy. Unfortunately for DeVries, that investigation prompted the filing of criminal charges by the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, Environmental Crimes Section.
On Aug. 22, 2011, DeVries pleaded guilty to illegally importing his polar bear trophy and is awaiting sentencing in September 2011. The maximum statutory sentence for this criminal violation is one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.
I'm not sure what happens to DeVries' polar bear trophy. Maybe it gets extradited back to Canada? I do know that I'm keeping my Baccarat crystal polar bear no matter what!