Alleged bear poacher faces criminal charge

October 15, 2015


By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART – The 27-year-old Zeeland man who allegedly shot a mother black bear who was with her three cubs, Sept. 23, in the Ruby Creek area of Colfax Township waived arraignment in 78th District Court Wednesday, Oct. 14, and is now scheduled for a pretrial next month, according to Oceana County Prosecutor Joseph Bizon.

Derek Allen Hassevoort, of 1701 104th Ave., turned himself in to authorities earlier this month and is scheduled to appear in district court for a pretrial Nov. 3, at 10:30 a.m. He is charged with a wildlife conservation violation — illegal taking of a bear.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources sought an arrest warrant for Hassevoort, who has a bear hunting permit. He was hunting legally until he came upon the bear, because it is illegal to kill a mother bear who is with her cubs, according to the DNR.

The mother bear was wearing a DNR tracking collar. Whatever happened to the cubs after their mother was shot is unknown. However, DNR officials believe the cubs have a good chance of survival. 

“Biologists said the cubs have a good chance of surviving on their own, but they would have been better off had the sow accompanied them through the rest of the fall and selection of a winter denning site,” according to the DNR.

“Fortunately, in this situation, these cubs were born in early 2015,” said DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson in Marquette. “Cubs at this age can already be the size of some yearlings and they understand how to collect food for themselves.”

A resident informed the DNR about the hunter’s alleged crime. “This incident involving the taking of an illegal bear during our bear season was the direct result of citizen involvement assisting our conservation officers with critical information that allowed for a rapid investigation and collection of evidence,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “Our officers benefit greatly when citizens take action coming forward with accurate and timely information related to fish and wildlife violations.”

Lt. John Jurcich of the DNR’s Cadillac office said expanding bear populations are of great interest in this area to hunters and non-hunters alike. In this case, the illegal taking of a sow with cubs that was frequently observed in the area by residents and had been the subject of research by the department, prompted residents to step forward with valuable information.

“The investigation revealed that the hunter who was licensed to hunt bear in the Baldwin Unit had prior knowledge of the sow with cubs coming into his bait location, based on trail camera photos of this very distinctive collared bear,” Jurcich said. “On the evening the bear was taken, information further indicates the hunter witnessed the cubs prior to his decision to take the bear with archery gear.”

Jurcich said investigating officers were told the bear was taken at a distance of 15 yards with a compound bow. Hassvoort registered the bear as required by law, and DNR wildlife division staff recovered the radio collar.

DNR officers recovered the bear’s cape during their investigation near Port Sheldon in Ottawa County. The carcass will be donated for food.

To report violations to the DNR, call the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 1-800-292-7800, or use the RAP online form. Incidents may be reported confidentially. The RAP line is staffed 24 hours each day.

The crime Hassevoort faces is a misdemeanor punishable by five to 90 days in jail; a fine of $500-$2,000; restitution; and loss of hunting privileges for the remainder of the year and the three following years.