West Virginia Man Faces Charges After Killing, Skinning 3 Black Bear Cubs

by Josh Lanier

West Virginia police say a 31-year-old man killed and three bear cubs for their pelts, then left their carcasses in the woods. A hunter found the skinless bodies in the woods two weeks ago and tipped off wildlife officials.

Officials accused Brian Reel, 31, of Belington, in the killings, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported. Police charged him with multiple offenses including the illegal taking of a bear weighing less than 75 pounds.

Police said he had removed the hides to give to someone, WBOY reported. Aside from the pelts found inside Reel’s home, police also found “a large amount of marijuana,” methamphetamines, scales, and a ledger that included a list of names and amounts of money,” the news station reported.

Officials charged Reel with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. He also faces three misdemeanor charges of illegally taking a bear, police said

“More charges related to this case are pending,” police said. “We would like to thank the public for their assistance in this case.”

To help generate tips in this cases, police posted images of the dead cubs on Facebook. Area hunters were infuriated.

“Horrible, sick, cruel and senseless,” one commenter wrote.

“They only took the fur and left all the meat to rot.” someone else wrote. “I hope they catch you bro and make you really pay for it … And take your license for life.”

Wildlife experts estimated the black bear population in that state at 12,000 in 2019.

According to the Herald-Leader, mother bears can birth between one and five cubs in a season. They’ll watch over the cubs for about a year and a half before the baby bears are mature enough to survive on their own.

An Alaska father and son were sentenced to three months in jail in 2019 for killing two bear cubs in their den, the New York Times reported.