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Unicoi County man convicted of illegally trying to trap bears

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 A man from the Flag Pond community was convicted of multiple trapping violations over the past year, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA). 

William “Bill” Ayers, 59, pleaded guilty to four different trapping violations in Unicoi County General Sessions Court this month. Charges include: attempting to trap black bear, untagged traps, use of steel traps on top of the ground and failure to inspect traps within 36 hours.

Working on information received in Nov. 2009, wildlife officers Brad Daugherty and Jeff Prater began documenting an illegal bait site that initially consisted of field corn. 

Upon subsequent visits to the baited site, a mobile bear trap containing a bucket filled with mixed candy and cookies was also present. On multiple occasions, the officers were able to positively identify Ayers, who often visited the trap in the early morning hours.

Other information from former Unicoi County Wildlife Officer David Robertson revealed that Ayers had baited bears in 2001 at another site near his home on Edwards Branch Road. A recent visit to this same area produced another large baited trap, although it was not set for capture. In an apparent attempt to keep other wildlife from consuming the bait, Ayers set steel-jaw traps on top of the ground in front of the bear trap’s entrance. A raccoon with both front and hind limbs caught in the steel-jaw traps remained captured for a period that exceeded 36 hours, which is a violation of state law. Other evidence at this site that also led officers to believe that Ayers was targeting bears included deer, bear and coyote carcasses.

District 42 wildlife officers — including Lt. Gary McWherter, Sgt. David Crum, Kim Gibson, David Carpenter, Dennis Ward, Matt Swecker, George Birdwell and Corey Jones — also assisted in the enforcement effort. Due to manpower and logistical concerns, the operation was scaled back, and sporadic checks of the site became routine until charges were filed.

Ayers appeared in Unicoi County General Sessions Court before Judge David Shults, who ordered him to pay $1,490 in fines, plus court costs, in addition to revoking his trapping privileges for one year. A bear trap and three steel-foothold traps were declared contraband and forfeited to the TWRA.