DUBOIS, Wyo. — A 34-year Dubois man pled “not guilty” this week to five poaching-related charges.
Kelly J. Grove was charged with two counts of “accessory before or after the fact in taking game animals without a license,” “accessory before or after the fact in using automobiles for hunting,” “accessory before or after the fact of hunting from the highway,” and “interference with a peace officer.” He pled “not guilty” before Judge Denhardt in the Circuit Court of Lander, Fremont County on Sept. 10.
This is not Grove’s first offense. He was sentenced last summer and on probation for illegally killing a grizzly bear—a federally protected species—in September 2015 along with Matthew Brooks of Casper. According to Game & Fish, Grove and Brooks were drinking one night and decided the popular sow grizzly posed a hazard to hunters, so they tracked her down, illuminated her with Brooks’ truck headlights, and shot her. They fled the scene and “made a pact not to talk about it.” After a two-year investigation, Brooks finally confessed.
Grove had also pled guilty in 2007 to “being an accessory to taking a bighorn ram without a license, waste/abandonment of a bighorn sheep, two counts each of waste of a big game animal, and two counts each of false oath to obtain resident big-game licenses,” according to a press release from Wyoming Game & Fish.
The grizzly offense put Grove on five years of unsupervised probation, during which time he was ordered not to commit another federal, state, tribal, or local crime. But he appears to have done it again. Grove was arrested on August 28 for his most recent offenses and spent six days in the Fremont County Jail before posting a $10,000 cash bond.
Each individual offense is bad on its own, said Game & Fish’s Lander Information and Education Specialist Rene Schell. But it’s an especially “outrageous crime in totality.”
Poaching has ecological consequences for already-vulnerable species like grizzlies and bighorn sheep, Schell said. Killing a sow grizzly means one less bear to help the population grow, and the Dubois bighorn sheep population has been declining for more than 20 years. “We can’t afford to lose even one animal.”
There are social implications to poaching, too. Hunting is a common conservation practice these days, but Schell said to the non-hunting world, people don’t always know the difference between hunting and poaching. “This is not hunting. This is killing,” Schell said. “But folks not involved in hunting may not see the difference… Socially, it’s really sad for conservation.”
Grove’s fate is now up to the justice system. It’ll be “interesting” to see what happens, Schell said, especially if he’s in front of the same judge.
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