Sussex County NJ Court Holds That Man Charged with Hunting Out of Season Acted in Self-Defense
The Sussex County Superior Court recently decided an appeal filed by a man charged by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife with violating Fish and Game Statutes. The defendant was specifically accused of discharging a firearm within 450 of his home. He also faced three counts for hunting out of season.
According to authorities, Bob Ehling, a 79-year-old Sparta NJ resident, took action last year when a mother bear climbed a 15-foot pole to reach his balcony. Once the bear reached the balcony, there was only a sliding glass door between the Ehling’s wife and the bear. Upon hearing his wife’s screams, Ehling grabbed his shotgun and fired at the 300-pound bear, killing it almost instantly. Afterwards, two cubs came along and were moving toward the balcony when Ehling used his shotgun to dispatch them as well.
The NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife investigated the shooting incident and later charged Ehling with three counts of hunting out of season pursuant to N.J.S.A. 23:4-1 and one count of discharging a firearm within 450 feet of a dwelling pursuant to N.J.S.A. 23:4-16.
Ehling chose not to plead to these charges in municipal court. After a two-day trial, he was found guilty of all four charges. However, Ehling later appealed the decision to the Sussex County Superior Court. The Honorable William J. McGovern then determined that Ehling validly acted in self-defense as it related to the mother bear but not regarding the two cubs not yet on Ehling’s balcony at the time of the shooting.
At the end of the day, Ehling learned a valuable lesson: that gun laws under both the New Jersey Criminal Code and the New Jersey Fish and Wildlife Statutes are strict and carry severe penalties. Fortunately, the Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office did not file charges related to possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose. This is a second degree crime and could have resulted in a sentence of 10 years in NJ State Prison.
Another important takeaway from this gun case is that the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife was not willing to excuse Ehling’s actions just because he acted in a way he perceived to be necessary to protect himself and his wife.
Man Shoots Bear in Self-Defense Near His Home in Sparta, NJ
To learn more about firearms laws in New Jersey and common criminal offenses related to guns, click here.