Game Law Violations



Two Laramie businessmen were recently ordered to pay $19,160 in fines and restitution for federal and state elk poaching violations committed in 1998. Both pleaded guilty and were sentenced in U.S. District Court in Casper on Lacey Act violations of transporting illegally taken game across state lines. Each man was fined $4,000, assessed $4,000 in restitution and had their U.S. hunting and fishing privileges revoked for three years by U.S. Magistrate Judge John Brooks.

The 26-year-old man was also sentenced to one-month home detention, six months supervised probation and three years unsupervised probation. He also pleaded guilty to accessory to taking a bull elk in a closed area in Fremont County and was fined $780. In Sublette County, he was fined $1,600 for taking an overlimit of elk, waste and abandonment of elk meat, and taking an elk without a license.

The second man, age 40, was also placed on three years unsupervised probation. In addition to federal charges, he pleaded guilty to taking a bull elk in a closed area in Fremont County and was fined $780.

The federal charges resulted from the men killing two 6-point elk without licenses during an antlerless season November 10, 1998, in the Pole Mountain area of the Medicine Bow National Forest east of Laramie and transporting the elk to a cabin in Grand Lake, Colorado, belonging to the family of one of the men, and later transporting the antlers to a ranch south of Jackson.

Laramie wildlife investigator John Demaree, game warden Alan Osterland and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agent Roy Brown logged over 2,100 hours unraveling the investigation, which began with a report to the "Stop Poaching" hotline about the Pole Mountain elk.

Due to the unwillingness of the two men to cooperate with the officers at the beginning, an intense and time-consuming investigation ensued which not only revealed the Pole Mountain poaching but also illegal hunting activities that fall in elk areas 95 west of Pinedale and in area 8 south of Laramie. Over 40 family members and associates were interviewed and 18 search warrants were served in Albany County and Colorado on residences, buildings and telephone records.

The information gathered found that both men had killed numerous elk around Laramie and Pinyon Ridge above Dubois during the fall of 1998. DNA analysis by the G&F forensic specialist Dee Dee Hawk identified 13 different bull elk from the blood, meat, antlers and hair samples gathered by officers.

Cellular phone records of the suspects, witness statements, photos and DNA matches of evidence obtained from Laramie, Jackson and the Colorado cabin provided enough information to begin prosecution in January 2000.

The suspects began cooperating with investigators and prosecutors in 2000, one in February and the other in December, and additional charges in Albany, Fremont, Teton and Sublette counties were dropped when an agreement was reached with Assistant U.S. Attorney John Barksdale.

As part of the federal plea agreement, both are to cooperate with prosecutors in pending court action against family members and associates on other wildlife violations, which occurred in 1998. To date, three of these individuals have paid $500 in fines and restitution for violations of hunting in wrong areas and abandonment of game meat. A 70-year-old man from Oroville, California, had his hunting privileges suspended for three years for taking an elk in a wrong area.

"The less the suspects cooperated in the case, the deeper we had to dig and in the process found more violations involving more people," said Demaree, who led the investigation. "Hopefully, everyone will have his or her day in court in the near future on these other ongoing investigations.

"As both the original men found out, part of the officer's job requirement is to have a lot of patience and persistence. It always helps to have the good working relationship we have with county and federal prosecutors and they between themselves. We are all working as one team with one goal, to protect Wyoming's wildlife."

Anyone with knowledge of any wildlife violation is urged to call "Stop Poaching" at (800) 442-4331. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction.

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