STAYING ON TRACK

LDWF Enforcement Agents’ Persistence Leads To Solving Louisiana Black Bear Case

story by Adam Einck, LDWF Public Information

Investigating rural wildlife cases with little to no leads takes training, skill and experience in order to piece together the evidence to crack a case.

That is the exact formula used by Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries enforcement agents when they solved a Louisiana black bear killing after initially investigating a night hunting case in Iberia Parish.

LDWF agents were alerted to a Louisiana black bear that was found dead with apparent gunshot wounds on Nov. 4, 2015 off of Weeks Island Road near Lydia. The nine-year-old 250-pound female black bear was part of a long term monitoring program and wore a tracking collar. Over the eight years the bear wore the tracking collar it provided researchers with valuable information on black bear populations, productivity and population viability in Louisiana.

LDWF conducted a necropsy on the deceased female black bear and removed a single bullet that was fired from a 7mm-08 caliber rifle.

“We went to the scene and recovered the bear,” said Senior Agent Andrew Arton. “The only evidence we could find at the scene was fresh peel out (tire) marks from a vehicle about 30 feet away from the dead bear.”

The property manager told agents about a suspicious pickup truck that was seen in the area. The necropsy revealed that the bear was shot in the head, which is consistent with night hunting activity as poachers use a spotlight to illuminate the eyes and that is where they aim.

“As you can see we were working with minimal information, but we believed we were looking for someone that was out night hunting in a truck,” said Arton.

On Dec. 27, 2015, agents were on patrol on Weeks Island when they caught Elie P. Dupre, 60, of New Iberia, night hunting in a truck on the same property the bear was found dead.

Agents cited Dupre for hunting during illegal hours, illegal spotlighting from a public road, hunting from a moving vehicle, hunting across a public road, hunting without a basic hunting license and hunting with a homemade silencer. Dupre’s juvenile son was also with him.

“We asked Mr. Dupre if had any knowledge of the bear that was found dead about 300 yards from where he was caught night hunting and he said he didn’t know anything about that bear,” said Arton.

Agents seized three firearms including a 7mm-08 Remington caliber bolt-action rifle from Dupre. Agents then submitted the 7mm-08 rifle to the Acadiana Criminalistics Laboratory for ballistics testing.

“The retrieved bullet was tested against test bullets fired from the seized rifle,” said Arton. “Through those tests the lab was able to match this rifle to the bullet that was retrieved from the bear.”

In August of 2016, agents executed a search warrant for Dupre’s historical cellular telephone cell site locations for the dates the bear was shot. Agents were able to determine that Dupre made two calls from the Weeks Island area during the time the bear was shot.

On Oct. 12, 2016, Dupre pleaded no contest for the night hunting violations he committed on Dec. 27, 2015. He was sentenced to pay fines totaling $950 and to forfeit the three guns seized.

On June 23, 2017, agents approached Dupre at his residence for further questioning about the dead black bear.

“At first Dupre stated again that he had no knowledge of the bear that was shot in the same vicinity he was arrested for illegal night hunting,’’ Arton said. “We presented him the evidence we had and told him we had more questions for him and his son. It was then that Dupre and his son confessed to the son shooting the bear.”

Agents issued Dupre and his son citations for taking a Louisiana black bear during a closed season immediately after their confessions.

On June 14, 2018, Dupre was found guilty for delinquency of juveniles for his role in his son’s illegal taking of a Louisiana black bear. He was ordered to pay $2,500 of the $10,000 civil restitution for the replacement value of the illegally taken bear. The judge also informed Dupre that LDWF can assess the remaining $7,500 of the civil restitution that is owed.

Dupre’s son was also found guilty for taking a bear during a closed season after he fatally shot the Louisiana black bear. He was sentenced to serve 100 hours of community service, had his hunting privileges suspended for one year and has to retake a hunter’s education course.

Agents involved in the case were Arton, Senior Agent David Boudreaux, Sgt. Brian Theriot and Senior Agent Cullom Schexnyder.

“It was a team effort that took a lot of persistence and expertise in order to piece all of the evidence together and get a conviction for this case,’’ Arton said. “We never gave up. Catching Dupre on his night hunting spree was crucial to this case. Without that, we would have had a hard time catching the people that shot this bear. It connected all the dots as we were able to match the rifle to the bullet and then go from there.”

Assistant District Attorney Angelique Narcisse prosecuted the case for the state.

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