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Bear-hunting guide who operated in Cook County fined more than $2,000

Brandon Greeley posing with one of the bears that was recovered from his freezer during the execution of a search warrant. Greeley did not have a valid license when shooting this bear, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

A Minnesota man who guided bear hunters in Cook County was convicted and sentenced last week to two years' probation and more than $2,400 in fines and restitution for a pair of hunting violations.

Brandon R. Greeley, 28, a resident of Blue Earth, Minn., and a licensed bear guide in the Tofte area, pleaded guilty in February in Cook County District Court to unlawful transportation of wild animals — a gross misdemeanor — and taking a deer without a hunting license, a misdemeanor.

District Court Judge Michael Cuzzo also sentenced Greeley to a year plus 90 days in jail, with the time stayed. As conditions of probation, Cuzzo ordered that Greeley not be present in any hunting camp; not be in the field or accompany or assist any other hunters — including but not limited to guiding, transporting, baiting, scouting or possessing big game; and not engage in any hunting, guiding or outfitting activities.

Greeley also will lose hunting privileges for three years, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported.

He also was convicted in Faribault County last year of misdemeanor illegal taking, buying, selling, transporting, or possessing of protected wild animals. He was sentenced to a year of probation and nearly $1,500 in fines and restitution in that case.

The charges in both counties stemmed from a multi-year DNR poaching investigation. Greeley is well-known to Minnesota DNR conservation officers as a chronic poacher with previous fishing, trapping and hunting violations, DNR officials said.

According to the DNR:

Conservation officers began investigating Greeley in 2012, and it became apparent that he had violated game laws involving bear, deer, furbearing animals and fish.

Greeley's illegal activities with clients included reports of not having the proper zone license to hunt bear in a given area, illegally transferring a bear tag, failure to register a bear and lending a bear license.

Greeley also was accused of shooting two bears in 2012 without a license and using a client's bear tag, though two misdemeanor counts of taking a bear without a license in Cook County were dismissed. DNR records had indicated that the client's tag had been used to register four bears from 2007-2011, but the client had taken only two bears and couldn't account for the registration of the additional bears.

Three search warrants executed at properties owned by Greeley and his parents in Blue Earth, Winnebago and Tofte uncovered a bevy of illegal game, according to the DNR. Investigators seized more than 100 items during the searches, including more than 150 traps, six black bear hides, multiple deer quarters, fish and other furbearing animals.

Multiple other bear-hunting violations, committed by other hunters, also were detected during the investigation. Greeley allegedly convinced four clients, including two juveniles, to buy tags for the wrong zone when they weren't drawn for the zone Greeley guides in. Another client without a bear license videotaped himself shooting a bear and bragging about it. That bear was tagged by the hunter's father. Officers obtained a search warrant on that hunter's residence and seized a bear rug.