WYOMING — A multi-year investigation into a resident who had committed wildlife crimes has recently been completed, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced yesterday.
The investigation involved a Wyoming resident who was living on the Grazing Hills Ranch near Natrona and concluded with a plea agreement and $45,070 in fines and restitution.
Game and Fish was alerted of possible violations by a tip from the public through the Stop Poaching Hotline. The investigation revealed the suspect had been killing mule deer and pronghorn without licenses and during closed seasons. He then substituted big game meat for beef to sustain his jerky business. The business sold products to unsuspecting customers throughout Wyoming as well as online.
During the investigation, Game and Fish game wardens located multiple deer and pronghorn antelope carcasses. Investigators sent tissue and jerky samples from these animals to the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic Lab for DNA comparison. Through this work, the lab was able to identify a combination of 18 unique mule deer and pronghorn antelope that were poached.
After the investigation, wardens assisted by deputies from the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office, arrested the man and charged him with 26 wildlife violations. In a plea agreement reached with the state, the Natrona resident pleaded no contest to killing a buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season. He was also charged as an accessory to the killing of another buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season. The plea agreement also included two counts of wanton destruction of big game animals and three counts of selling game meat. In exchange for his no-contest plea, the District Attorney dismissed the remaining charges.
In total, the court assessed $45,070 worth of fines and restitution. The man had his hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges suspended for a minimum of five years and is not eligible to hunt in Wyoming or 48 other states who are members of the Wildlife Violator Compact until all his restitution monies are paid in full. Additionally, the court forfeited all firearms seized by Game and Fish, all illegal wildlife parts and all supplies associated with the sale of game meat.
“Game and Fish is grateful to the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent work on this case, along with the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and the person who came forward with this information. This type of case can significantly impact Wyoming’s wildlife. It may have gone undetected without the public’s help,” said Brian Olsen, Casper region wildlife supervisor.