Sturgis man sentenced for baiting mountain lions

A70-year-old Sturgis man has been sentenced after pleading guilty to five counts of illegally trapping big game.

Bruce Bennett originally faced 16 poaching-related counts, including unlawful possession of big game and failing to tag said game before transport. He pleaded guilty to five counts of illegal trapping in a Lawrence County Court in October, with the state dismissing the other 11 charges.

On Wednesday, Fourth Circuit Judge Chad Callahan sentenced Bennett to a suspended 30 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each of the five counts. Bennett also has to forfeit all his guns and is banned from receiving a hunting license for the rest of his life.

Prosecutor Jeffry Erlandson told the Journal that South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks began investigating Bennett after receiving a tip, with other tips coming in throughout the course of that investigation.

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Court documents indicate that Bennett was baiting mountain lions between 2015 and his arrest in December 2021. At least one cape from a mountain lion was sold to a Cabela's store in Texas; Erlandson said he believed that had been returned.

"It's a terrible case," Erlandson said. "I think we did a really good job with the sentence that we got. I'm glad he was banned from hunting for life. If you break the law in this area, we're not going to kid-glove it — you're gonna pay the price if you get caught."

Erlandson said it will be up to GF&P along with the U.S. Attorney's Office to pursue federal charges if they choose to do so.

This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sturgis man sentenced for baiting mountain lions