A Florida hunting dog trainer won’t spend a day in jail for abusing a black bear during a Utah hunt where he pursued the animal to the point of collapse.
But William Tyler “Bo” Wood, who was sentenced Monday for his conviction arising from the 2018 incident, didn’t break the law by having his dogs chase the bear for 90 minutes and then harass the terrified animal once it collapsed. Ironically, Wood violated the law by crating the bear and taking it back to his camp in a bid to protect and revive the exhausted animal.
A Grand County jury declined to find Wood, 32, guilty of poaching the bear, which is not known to have died in ordeal, instead convicting him of misdemeanor counts of capturing and transporting protected wildlife.
The case exposed the dark side of bear and cougar pursuits, a “sport” that is legal in Utah, yet burdened with ethical baggage. Sicking dogs on bears looks to many like animal cruelty and it unnecessarily stresses wildlife and could jeopardize public safety. In virtually any other context, harassing big game animals and other wildlife is illegal.
Seventh District Judge Don Torgerson ordered a suspended 6-month jail sentence on each of the two counts and put Wood on 18 months probation, during which he is not allowed to participate in any bear pursuits. It was likely Wood’s bear chasing days were over regardless.
He was already in deep trouble with Florida wildlife officials for allegedly tormenting and killing bears in his home state in 2018 when investigators seized videos depicting a disturbing bear chase in Utah. Further investigation led officers to Wood’s client, Clifford Stubbs, a Parowan contractor and avid houndsman — someone who uses dogs to chase cougars and bears for sport.
Stubbs cooperated with the probe and his testimony helped convict Wood at his three-day trial in November. Wood could face prison time in Florida, where he is awaiting trial on felony charges for actually abusing bears.
In the Utah case, Wood was ordered to pay $1,000 fine, to forfeit his hunting privileges in Utah for three years and to provide a DNA sample.
The case is expected to spur legislation aimed at tightening the rules governing how hunters pursue bears.