In September 2019, NYS Environmental Conservation Officer (ECO) Wood received a complaint about suspects unlawfully shooting a bear with the aid of bait in the town of Fallsburg. The illegal activity reportedly happened over the final weekend of the early bear season. ECO Wood responded to the area and patrolled on foot with his a police dog. ECO Wood located two stands around a bait pile and the dog located blood and black fur. ECO Wood photographed the area and collected the blood for potential future testing.
On opening day of rifle deer season in November 2019, ECO Wood returned to the area with his dog and a New York State Trooper as part of the annual Green and Gray Patrol, a detail that pairs ECOs and Troopers in areas with a high call volume during hunting seasons. During the patrol, the Officers observed hunter Michael Travis in one of the bait stands with his younger brother. When asked who else was hunting, Travis was adamant that he was alone according to the officers. The dog however, quickly tracked to a vehicle in the woods where another hunter, Tasha Curry, was found hiding with her rifle. Officers interviewed Travis and Curry and charged them with hunting deer with the aid of bait. Curry was issued an additional charge of failing to report her bear harvest during the previous bear hunting season as required.
According to ECO Wood the two hunters eventually admitted to killing a bear illegally and taking it to a residence in Ulster County until they could get it mounted. ECO Wood made several attempts to locate the bear carcass at the Ulster County residence without results, but eventually found it at Travis’ residence. DNA test results confirmed that the animal was the bear killed in September 2019. In addition, ECO Wood found a photograph of Curry posing with the bear in the same area of the bait stands, where the evidence was found.
On February 4th, 2020, Travis and Curry appeared in Fallsburg Court for hunting deer with bait on the opening day of rifle season. Both pleaded guilty and were fined. The illegal bear case was resolved in the Town of Fallsburg Court on April 13th, 2021. Curry and Travis each pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charges of taking protected wildlife except as permitted by Fish and Wildlife Law. They were each fined $2,000 for the illegal bear and mandated to pay a $120 surcharge, plus $450 in DNA testing restitution, to DEC.