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Man charged in bear deaths

MISSOULA – A Bigfork man who lives in the Ferndale area of Lake County has pleaded not guilty to federal charges that resulted from him allegedly shooting and killing a grizzly May 2014. 

Dan Calvert Wallen, 54, pleaded not guilty Jan. 27 to three counts of unlawful taking of a threatened species. He could face up to six months in jail and a $25,000 fine if convicted. 

According to court documents, on May 27, Wallen’s neighbor called Flathead County dispatch to say that an injured grizzly had entered his property after Wallen shot it. The neighbor shot and killed the animal. Upon investigation Wallen told authorities that the grizzly had been killing his chickens and that he shot a .22 rifle twice toward the animal to scare it away. 

Wallen told investigators he didn’t know if he hit the animal. 

The bear entered the neighbor’s property, and the neighbor reported that the bear could only raise its head. The neighbor killed the animal with a .300 Remington rifle. 

A necropsy of the animal revealed three bullets had entered the animal. 

On May 28 a Montana FWP biologist responded to a call for assistance from Wallen’s wife, saying that grizzlies kept attacking their chickens. In a later interview the Wallen said the bears had killed more than two dozen of their fowl. The coop was not electrified, and the bears smashed through barbed wire protecting it. 

While setting a trap for any remaining bears in the area, the biologist found a carcass of a second dead grizzly bear. 

When interviewed, Wallen said that before the first injured bear fled to his neighbor’s house, a trio of grizzlies had entered his chicken coop while his children were in the backyard playing baseball. Wallen used his truck to scare the bears away, but they returned 15 minutes later, by which time the family had been moved inside. 

Wallen warned the neighbors’ caretaker that he had shooed the bears her way, and she said she had to hit them with a rock to get her dogs inside. 

When the two bears returned and attacked the chickens, Wallen said he shot at them again. 

On June 4 a neighbor who had returned from vacation found a dead grizzly carcass on her property. The bear looked like it had been decomposing for a week. 

Necropsies of the animals determined that they all died from a weapon similar to Wallen’s .22. 

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