DNA Connects Poacher
A Del Norte County man is scheduled for federal court sentencing in September in a Roosevelt elk poaching case brought to trial through a blend of investigative work by state and federal officials that included DNA tissue matching.
The 71-year-old Requa man faces sentencing on two counts of transporting a pair of 600-pound cow elk illegally killed in January 1999 on Redwood National Park near Orick and one count of being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm. A jury convicted him of the two federal Lacey Act violations in May following a week-long trial before Northern District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker. Prior to the trial, the man pleaded quilty to the gun charge.
Davina Pujari, assistant U.S. attorney in San Francisco who prosecuted the case, said each Lacey Act violation carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine. She said the gun possession charge calls for a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
CDFG Lt. Rick Banko said he decided to alert state park rangers, Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents and other state game wardens to watch for signs of an elk poaching after he drove past the mans home in January 1999, and observed what turned out to be four elk halves hanging outside the residence.
A day later, Banko said, a BIA officer found the first of two elk kill sites on Coastal Drive inside Redwood National Park. Investigators obtained a search warrant, retrieved the elk meat and collected tissue samples from both the meat and the kill sites.
In September 1999, DNA tests by DFG forensic pathologist Jim Banks in Sacramento linked the kills with the meat confiscated at the mans residence.
Bank said the man, a member of the Yurok Indian Tribe who lives on the Yurok Reservation, claimed the elk were killed on reservation land. Tribal members may legally take fish and wildlife on reservation lands year-around.
Pujari said the two Lacey Act charges were filed because the elk were killed in violation of federal law and then transported from the scene. The Lacey Act, often used in interstate wildlife cases, is aimed at helping federal officials deal with trafficking of wildlife and wildlife parts.
Banko said he contacted U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Terry Thiebeault after first running the case through the Del Norte County district attorneys office. Thiebeault took the case into the federal court system and the man was indicted by a federal grand jury in May 2000.
Officials of the fedeal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the state Department of Parks and Recreation assisted the Fish and Wildlife Service, DFG, BIA and National Park Service in the investigation.
California conducts three small, quota-controlled elk hunts on private timber lands on the north coast each fall. No hunting is permitted on the national park lands at any time.
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