FWC arrests 9 for animal cruelty against bears

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Attorney General Pam Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution recently announced the arrests of nine individuals after a year-long investigation into the illegal baiting, taking and molestation of Florida black bears by the use of dogs for commercial purposes.

During the investigation, FWC officers gathered evidence of numerous illegal acts in several Florida counties on both private and public lands. Prosecution of this case is being coordinated by the Florida Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution.

“Thanks to the comprehensive action of law enforcement, led by the dedicated officers of the FWC, those responsible for these inhumane acts will face the full force of the law. In Florida, we have no tolerance for vile animal cruelty, and we will hold anyone accountable who commits this heinous crime,” said Gov. Rick Scott.

FWC Chairman Robert Spottswood said, “The actions revealed by this investigation are disturbing to me and to my fellow commissioners. Speaking on behalf of the commission, these actions are not indicative of hunters and other conservationists, and I am grateful that our Division of Law Enforcement has worked diligently to bring their behavior to light.”

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton said, “The FWC wholly condemns the acts by these nine individuals outlined by this investigation. As conservationists and ethical hunters, it is appalling to think about the callous disregard for common decency and our state’s precious natural resources shown by these violations. There is no place in Florida for these heinous acts.”

Col. Curtis Brown, director of FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement, “I’d like to recognize the hard and diligent work of the North Central investigative team on this case for the past year. They have been on this case from the beginning and have done outstanding work. This case sends a message to others who would commit these violations that there is no place in Florida for them.”

According to the investigation, the defendants lured black bears by placing drums of dog food, doughnuts, pastries and peanut butter in various areas throughout Baker, Flagler, Marion and Union counties. The defendants then used large packs of dogs to chase and maul the black bears.

After some of the attacks, the defendants posted numerous videos of the acts on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. None of the individuals involved tried to call off the dogs or stop the attack on the bears. The Office of Statewide Prosecution obtained warrants for the social media accounts where the defendants posted videos of the attacks.

The charges consist of several felonies and misdemeanors including animal cruelty, illegal taking and baiting of black bear and Florida RICO (racketeer influenced and corrupt organization) act violations.

The public can help by reporting suspected violations to the FWC. To make a report, call the Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922), text or email Tip@MyFWC.com or visit MyFWC.com/WildlifeAlert.

The suspects arrested were: William Tyler Wood of Lake Butler; Dustin Reddish of Lake Butler; Haley Reddish of Lake Butler; Mark Lindsey of Georgia; Charles Luther Scarbrough II of Callahan, Fla.; Hannah Weiner Scarbrough of Callahan. Fla.; Christopher Elliot Haun of Ormond Beach; William Edward Landrum of Virginia; Troy Travis Starling of

Lake Butler.

Attorney General Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution Assistant Statewide Prosecutors Kelly McKnight and Diane Croff will prosecute the defendants.