SHENANDOAH COUNTY, Va. - A park ranger in Virginia has been cleared of wrongdoing in a 2016 fatal shooting of a black bear cub in Shenandoah National Park and will return to duty next week, a spokesperson for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney announced on Monday.
“Evidence uncovered over the course of our investigation suggests that on the morning of October 26, 2016, Ranger Corey Stuart acted in self-defense when he shot and killed a two year-old black bear cub on the grounds of Shenandoah National Park,” Assistant District Attorney Julian Irving told reporters. At the time of the shooting, Stuart, who is white, told investigators he shot the eighty-pound black bear eleven times with his shotgun when he became “convinced” it was preparing to charge him.
According to court documents, forty-three year-old Corey Stuart, a decorated veteran of the National Park Service, stumbled upon the sleeping black bear cub in a closed section of the park that authorities say is a “hotbed” for illegal drug activity. “We find a lot of city folk up here,” fellow Park Ranger Ronald Smith told Shenandoah Valley News. Ranger Smith, who was among the first to respond to the shooting, said he recovered a plastic bag containing several grams of marijuana a few feet from the black bear.
Percy Thompson, a former animal trainer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, said that in his experience, black bears are the most difficult to train. “They’ve got a real problem with authority,” the retired ringleader told Real News Right Now. “Used to be, you’d just tap ’em with a cattle prod and they’d fall in line,” explained Thompson, who added that animal rights groups and the “liberal establishment” are to blame for the recent rise in bear-related incidents.
On Monday, PETA spokesperson Alyssa Jones referred to the death of the two year-old black bear at the hands of a white park ranger as “an ongoing epidemic,” saying the animal rights organization is calling on the Department of Interior to launch an independent investigation into the incident. “In the words of renowned animal lover and civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” Ms. Jones said.