JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi taxidermist must pay $4,300 for hiding the skin of a threatened Louisiana black bear from investigators, and a man who helped take the bear to him must pay an equal amount.

Chester Brad Williams of Meridian and taxidermist David Lucas Wimberly of Quitman both were put on probation for a year, during which neither may hunt, The Clarion-Ledger reported.

Wimberly must also mount the bear, which was shot last year in Lauderdale County, and give it to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for educational purposes, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate said at his sentencing last week.

Both pleaded guilty earlier this year to possessing the dead bear; Williams also pleaded guilty to transporting it.

Travis Butler of Meridian has not been sentenced. He pleaded guilty to getting someone else to shoot the animal and to obstructing a federal investigation, a felony charge which prevents him from owning a gun.

The maximum penalties are a year in prison and a $100,000 fine for violating the Endangered Species Act and up to 20 years and $250,000 for obstruction.

A federal judge sentenced Wimberly and Williams last week.

Habitat loss and other factors had cut the number of bears in the subspecies to an estimated few hundred in three areas by 1992. But after 23 years of protection and restoration, the population is stable and growing subpopulations have expanded into Mississippi.

Because of that, the federal agency has proposed removing the Louisiana black bear from the list of threatened species.

___

Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com