Vermont Woman Charged with Assault for Using Bear Spray on Hunters

Vermont Woman Charged with Assault for Using Bear Spray on Hunters

A 61-year-old woman is facing multiple charges after allegedly spraying three hunters with bear spray near the small town of Groton, Vermont, local authorities say.

Vermont resident and noted local houndsman Ellsworth “Butch” Spear contacted wardens with the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife (VDFW) on July 10 to report the incident, which occurred near the Groton State Forest.

According to VDFW, Spear told wardens that he and two other hunters were driving down Red Brook Road when a Groton resident named Liza Nanni forced them to a stop.

“Mr. Spear alleged that Ms. Nanni blocked the road, instigated an altercation, and used bear spray on him and his companions,” a department press release stated. “Mr. Spear and companions retreated from the scene and called Vermont State Police Dispatch after returning to cell service.”

According to the press release, Spear’s companions included another adult hunter as well as a minor.

Spear is one of the central figures at the heart of a long-running feud between bear hunters and anti-hunting activists in Vermont’s Northern Kingdom. As a lifelong hound hunter and the one-time president of the Vermont Bear Hound Association, he frequently takes new hunters into the woods of northern Vermont, introducing them to the nuances of hunting black bears with hounds.

His efforts and outspoken advocacy for bear hunting with hounds have led to direct conflict with the state’s anti-bear hunting contingency before. Last fall, MeatEater spoke with Spear about his role in another bear hunting-related controversy involving a viral TikTok video produced by a Vermont farmer named Morgan Gold.

Spear isn’t the only houndman who’s had to deal with hunter harassment in northern Vermont in recent months. In Dec. 2021, MeatEater reported on an incident that involved two Groton women who slashed the truck tires of a hound hunter named Theodore Shumway before letting loose a German shepherd that attacked and severely injured one of his hunting dogs. Those women were found guilty of hunter harassment and fined $262 a piece for their crimes.

According to VDFW, the wardens who responded to the recent bear spray incident reviewed videos recorded by both parties before ultimately charging Liza Nanni with hunter harassment, disorderly conduct, and simple assault.

“Managing Vermont’s wildlife for a public with diverse values is a challenge and a privilege,” said VDFW Commissioner Christopher Herrick. “I support all Vermonters with their shared passion for wildlife. No matter how different our practices or approaches may be, we all must remain civil and respectful as we enjoy the outdoors. I strongly condemn the criminal behavior that occurred in Groton.”

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