Massachusetts man facing charges after shooting bear in self-defense in his yard


Richard Ahlstrand, of Auburn, Massachusetts, faces criminal charges after encountering a bear in his back yard and shooting the damned thing to avoid being mauled or eaten. Specifically, as noted at Reason 24/7, he’s charged with “illegally killing a bear, illegally baiting a bear, illegal possession of a firearm and failure to secure a firearm.” All of these charges, once translated from Massachusetts to American, seem to stack up to outrage that Ahlstrand didn’t make his yard completely inhospitable to animals that are rarely seen in the area, and then investigated a suspicious noise with a weapon in hand rather than cower under the bed. Worst of all, he actually defended himself when he encountered danger.

The baiting charge, as J.D. Tucille notes, comes from the fact that Ahlstrand had a large barrel of birdseed in his yard, even though it was not meant to bait a bear, and bears are rarely seen in the area.

The police account, with a hint of contempt for a 76-year-old having the temerity to defend himself:

Chief Sluckis said the bear is believed to have been attracted to a 50-gallon drum of birdseed Mr. Ahlstrand had in his backyard. He said Mr. Ahlstrand told police he heard a noise outside and felt in fear of his life.

“He went back inside, retrieved a shotgun and decided to shoot the bear,” Chief Sluckis said. “Obviously we believe if Mr. Ahlstrand was truly in fear for his life he would have stayed secured in his home and would have called the police.”

There’s that indomitable spirit of ’76 embodied. Hide in your house at all costs, people, “dial 911 and then curl into a fetal position whenever they hear a curious noise.”

Via CBS Boston, a 300-400-lb bear began chasing him before he went inside to get his gun.

The feds dropped charges filed against an Idaho man in 2011 for a similar “crime,” amidst public protest and urging by the governor of Idaho. Jeremy Hill’s children were playing in his yard when a grizzly bear showed up. Yelling to warn his children, but unable to confirm they were all out of the bear’s range, Hill grabbed his daughter’s shotgun to protect the family. He then immediately reported his “crime” to the state wildlife authorities. This is the government’s take on that:

Although hunting of grizzlies is generally prohibited under the Endangered Species Act, the law allows the animals to be killed if they are a threat to human life.

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that wildlife investigators were unable to pinpoint where the Hill children were when three grizzlies appeared about 40 yards from the family home. When the bears neared a pig pen, Hill fired the first of three rounds at the closest of the bruins, according to statements by the government and by Hill.

“By the time Mr. Hill fired the final shot, he was aware that all of his children and his wife were inside of their house,” according to the prosecutors’ statement.

Hill said he fired the third and fatal shot because he thought “it would be very dangerous to leave the bear wounded, possibly posing a threat to others.”

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