An animal-rights organization is claiming victory in a three-year legal fight to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release a videotape of country music star Troy Gentry illegally killing a tame black bear on an enclosed game farm in east-central Minnesota.
The video, posted Monday on YouTube by SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness), shows Gentry, of the country music duo Montgomery Gentry, smiling and giving the thumbs-up twice from his tree stand after shooting an arrow at close range into the side of a bear named Cubby in 2004 at the Minnesota Wildlife Connection near Sandstone.
Decked out in camouflage, Gentry goes on to explain that "we'll go down and get some coffee, go back to camp" and wait and "make sure he bleeds out good. ... Right now, it's time to go celebrate. I'm still shaking."
Later, Gentry approaches the dead bear and notes how the carcass is "good and bubbly, which means we got a good blood shot."
Then, Gentry is joined by property owner Lee Greenly kneeling behind the 600-pound bear as Gentry's bow leans against the animal's torso. "He didn't even know what hit him," Greenly said. "Perfect shot."
Gentry's attorney in the case, Ron Meshbesher, said Tuesday that he and Gentry's agent were unaware of the challenge over release of the video and were declining to comment at this time.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Sandy Cleva said the agency objected to releasing the video out of concern for the privacy rights of Gentry and Greenly.
The Fish and Wildlife Service argued that the video "could embarrass them or could shame them," said Bill Eubanks, an attorney in Washington, D.C., and the lead attorney on behalf of SHARK in its suit against the agency.
Eubanks said that the judge ruled that the "privacy interests were quite minimal" because portions of the video were "already shown on national television, and they had planned to use it for a country video."
Cleva acknowledged that agency officials were not aware of the video having already been shown publicly, adding that such information would have precluded the need for legal action.
Gentry, 43, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in November 2006 of falsely registering a trophy bear.
In February 2007, a federal judge in Duluth sentenced Gentry to three months' probation and fined him $15,000 for the kill.
"Troy Gentry's actions are vile," SHARK President Steve Hindi said in a written statement. "He mercilessly slaughtered a beautiful animal whose only fault was that he was worth more dead to his owner than alive."
At his plea hearing, Gentry testified that he bought Cubby from Greenly with the understanding that they would stage and videotape a hunt inside the bear's 3-acre enclosure.
"Lee and I made a deal about harvesting this bear," Gentry testified. He said they also agreed to falsely claim when registering the animal that it was killed in the wild 6 miles east of Sandstone instead of on Greenly's property.
In a public statement, Gentry expressed "deep regret" for his actions and said he didn't realize the "seriousness of what I was doing" when he relied on "experts around me."
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482