A bear shot and killed illegally in Pennsylvania Dec. 29, 1987, has pushed a Utah animal, that previously held the record as the world's largest black bear, out of the top of the record books.
The world-record black bear was reported killed in West Virginia but was actually shot out of season in north central Pennsylvania. The three men involved have been fined, the Department of Natural Resources says.A seven-month-long state investigation proved that a Weirton doctor and his two sons did not shoot the 800-pound bear at Dolly Sods in Tucker County, DNR Sgt. Steve Stewart said Friday.
Dr. Anthony A. Yurko Jr., Thomas C. Yurko and Karl Yurko were charged in West Virginia with illegal possession of a black bear and were charged in Pennsylvania with killing the bear out of season, Stewart said.
The elder Yurko paid $600 in fines in West Virginia this week after pleading guilty. His sons each pleaded guilty in West Virginia and paid $300 in fines each.
All three pleaded guilty and were fined $800 each in Pennsylvania, Stewart said.
Officials from the DNR, Pennsylvania and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service started the probe after the hunters checked in the bear with a Grant County game tag on Dec. 31, the last day of the 1987 West Virginia black bear season.
They actually killed the 8-foot-long, 19-year-old bear Dec. 29 while out for a walk near their camp in Lycoming County, Pa., Stewart said.
"On this particular day, they just happened to walk right up on the bear," he said.
Although the Pennsylvania black bear season was closed, Thomas Yurko was carrying a rifle, which he said was for self-defense, according to Stewart.
"The boy carrying the gun, Thomas Yurko, threw the gun up and fired two times and dropped (the bear) in its tracks," he said.
"After they'd calmed down, they decided to skin the bear out and transfer the head and hide back to West Virginia and illegally obtain a West Virginia game checking tag for the bear," Stewart said.
A Wheeling tanner to whom the Yurkos brought the hide reported it to the DNR as a possible record, and that started the investigation, Stewart said.
The bear skull now will be officially scored by the Boone and Crockett Club, an organization that records trophy scores for all of North America's big-game animals.
The skull has been measured at 237/8 inches, while the current world record bear - found dead in Sanpete County, Utah, in 1975 - was measured by Boone and Crockett officials at 235/8 inches.
Although the bear was killed illegally, Boone and Crockett still will list it with its records, if the state pays a $30 fee. The Yurkos, however, will not be credited for the record kill.