Mich. Man Pleads Guilty to Illegally Importing Polar Bear Trophy from Canada

Rodger Dale DeVries, 73, a resident of Jenison, Mich., has pleaded guilty to illegally importing a polar bear trophy mount in 2007 from Canada into Michigan in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), announced Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney aeneral for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and Donald A. Davis, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan.

According to the plea agreement, the defendant obtained a license from the Nunavut Territory in Canada to hunt and kill a polar bear from the Foxe Basin in November 2000. DeVries knew that polar bears from the Foxe Basin could not be imported into the United States, so the defendant had the polar bear trophy stored in Canada.

On July 3, 2007, DeVries traveled to Canada. He picked up the polar bear trophy from a storage unit, and, along with his two minor grandsons, put the polar bear trophy in his own boat and traveled from a boat harbor in Ontario, Canada, across the border to port in Raber Bay, Mich. A few days later, the defendant moved the trophy to his home and then sold the boat.

The MMPA prohibits importation of polar bear trophies or parts unless the secretary of the interior has determined that, in doing so, the region would still maintain sustainable population levels. The secretary has not made such a determination for the Foxe River Basin, and therefore, DeVries’ importation violated the MMPA. Since May of 2008 when polar bears were listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, the MMPA automatically prohibited the importation of polar bear parts or trophies for personal use from any part of Canada.

“The polar bear is an ecological and cultural treasure of the American and Canadian Arctic,” Moreno said. “We will not tolerate the illegal importation of polar bear trophies and will fully prosecute all violations of federal law.”

Devries entered the plea Aug. 22, 2011, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley in Grand Rapids, Mich. The sentencing is currently scheduled for Sep. 8, 2011.

The maximum statutory sentence for this criminal violation is one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000.