Hunter sentenced to PETA donation |

Hunter sentenced to PETA donation

Joel Stonington
Aspen Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” When a Minnesota man pleaded guilty to illegally killing and baiting a bear, the judge ordered him to give $500 to a fringe animal-rights group, a decision that has raised eyebrows.

Craig Miller, 44, now is required to donate the cash to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which has a Web site that calls for societal changes such as “ending fur and leather use, meat and dairy consumption, fishing, hunting, trapping, factory farming, circuses and bull fighting.”

“It wasn’t what I was expecting,” said Miller’s defense attorney, John Van Ness of Woody Creek. “I don’t know where that came from, the PETA business. I know they are opposed to fur coats.”

The conviction came 45 days after Miller baited and killed a bear the day before the beginning of hunting season. He beheaded the bear, took the fur and left the meat in the field, which is a criminal offense.

Miller tried to make the kill legal and get a Colorado Department of Wildlife seal that would have allowed taxidermy work on the pelt, but the department investigated and found evidence of the crimes.

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He was sentenced to $5,300 in fines, a two-year unsupervised probation, loss of hunting rights for five years and a $500 donation to PETA in lieu of community service. The order to pay PETA was delivered by Chuck Buss, a retired district judge who was filling in for Judge James Boyd, who is on vacation this week.

PETA often gets involved in high-profile animal-rights cases and has become a lightning rod of sorts for animal issues. Most recently, PETA was in the news for giving an eight-hour “developing empathy for animals” seminar to Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who is set to be sentenced Dec. 10 for his role in a dog-fighting ring.

“We’ve had restitution ordered to our organization in the past,” said PETA spokeswoman Daphna Nachminovitch. “I would not say it’s common. It’s a gesture on the part of the judge to say this bear mattered and that a donation should be made in his memory. Five-hundred dollars isn’t going to make up for the suffering this bear endured.”

The money would go into PETA’s general fund, not one specifically focused on bears, though Nachminovitch said the organization does have education efforts that try to help people live better with wild animals.

Miller would not comment on whether he thought PETA would use his money well, though he did say he will “comply with what the judge ordered.” Others have suggested that the donation would be better used by a local organization working on the bear problems in the area.

“Had we been asked, we might have recommended the purchase of bear-proof containers to solve issues on a more localized basis; however, we weren’t asked,” said Division of Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton. “We have a lot of cubs at a private center in Silt. Twelve cubs have been sent there from the northwest region. The cubs that are there are consuming hundreds of pounds of food a day.”

Miller, a lifelong hunter who has held over 70 hunting licenses, lives in a suburb of St. Paul, Minn., a state that will be included in the ban. However, he lives only 10 minutes from the border with Wisconsin, where he will not be banned from hunting because that state is not yet a part of the pact.

“No comment,” Miller said, when asked whether or not he would be hunting in the next five years, considering the ban did not cover Wisconsin. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

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