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Duluth man charged in headless-bear case

The bear carcass was found in September near popular hiking trails along Duluth's Amity Creek.

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Contributed / Minnesota DNR
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A Duluth man faces four criminal charges and $400 in restitution in the case of the headless bear dumped along a parking lot near popular hiking trails in Duluth in September.

The case was reported in the News Tribune and circulated widely on social media after several people saw the bear carcass, which had its head cut off, along a city-owned parking lot near Amity Creek just off Jean Duluth Road.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Kipp Duncan was called to the scene and, after a lengthy investigation, determined the bear had been shot illegally by Aaron Alan Horn, 28.

According to the criminal complaint filed in state district court in Duluth, Horn is charged with:

  • One count of illegally transporting big game, a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and one year in jail.

  • One count of wanton waste, for not recovering the bear soon enough to use the meat, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

  • One count of bear hunting violations, for hunting in a zone where he wasn’t licensed to hunt, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.

  • One count of littering, a petty misdemeanor, for dumping the carcass on public property.

Horn also faces state-sanctioned restitution of $400 for the value of an illegally taken bear.
According to the complaint, Duncan was called on reports of a headless bear carcass laying next to a city-owned parking lot along Jean Duluth Road on the city’s northern border Sept. 17.

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Duncan investigated and quickly surmised the bear had been shot with an arrow, probably somewhere else and then dumped at the site, because there were no drag marks where the bear torso was located.

The complaint notes Duncan received numerous tips, interviewed numerous people and that Horn eventually confessed to shooting the bear with a bow and arrow Sept. 14 outside his father’s house. Horn also admitted that he did not have a valid bear hunting license at the time for that area. According to the complaint, Horn and several friends tracked the wounded bear and eventually found it dead, but didn’t attempt to retrieve it until the next day.

High temperatures that day reached 81 degrees and dropped to just 60 degrees at night, which would cause the bear’s meat to spoil within hours.

According to the complaint, Horn brought the bear to Chalstrom's Bait and Tackle for registration and to have the meat processed there, but was told immediately the bear was spoiled and unusable. According to the complaint, Horn initially denied dumping the carcass on the city property near his father's house, but later admitted to it.

It’s unclear why the head had been removed from the body, although it’s not unusual for hunters to keep the bear skull as a trophy.

Duncan said he wouldn’t comment on details of the case until after it had concluded in court. But he thanked the public for following up on the News Tribune article, saying numerous people provided information that helped solve the case.

An electronic summons was filed with the complaint Dec. 7 for Horn, who is scheduled to make his first appearance in the case before Judge Eric Hylden on Jan. 7 in Duluth.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at jmyers@duluthnews.com.
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