Citizen’s Against Poaching - Thanks to You It Works
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
October 2015 - Senior Conservation Officer Julie Lininger, Panhandle Region
The afternoon of October 11, 2015 was a busy one. I was in the middle of an illegal elk case when my cell phone began to ring. The cell phone connection was poor and the call was lost. I was able to continue the conversation via text message. A concerned sportsman had just observed three individuals shoot three mule deer does about 3 hours from my location. There is no legal hunting season for antlerless mule deer in the Panhandle Region.
As I made my way to the location where the suspects were supposedly camped I received another phone call from yet another citizen who also observed three suspects with three antlerless mule deer near where the first caller stated suspects were camped. This citizen gave me an exact location of the camp and relayed ATV license plates identical to what I already received.
At about 7 PM I contacted the three suspects at their camp. They all admitted to shooting three antlerless mule deer illegally. I issued all three people citations for unlawfully taken deer, and seized the three does. The carcasses were processed and are currently being held until the cases have gone through the court process. Usually seized meat from these cases is donated to the local food banks after the court process is finalized.
Without the efforts of these concerned sportsmen, it is highly unlikely these violations would have ever been detected. Not only did the sportsmen relay vital information about the suspects and their location, but one of them took photos of the ATV license plates, and of the three illegal deer.
Thanks to all those who make the call to report wildlife violations. You are instrumental in catching poachers stealing wildlife from Idaho’s citizens.
September 2015 - District Conservation Officer Justin Williams, Salmon Region
Leadore, ID - The Beaverhead zone A tag has two boundary rules to legally shoot a cow elk with a rifle during the months of August and September: 1) hunters must be within one mile of an agricultural field; and 2) those participating in this hunt must stay outside of the national forest administrative boundary. Nick named the "greenfield hunt," this hunt was designed to keep pressure on elk damaging agricultural crops, and move them back into the mountains away from the fields.
On September 30th, the last day of the greenfield hunt, the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline received a call. Two archery hunters witnessed a group of six hunters in three vehicles violate both of these rules – the elk and hunters were about 4 miles from the nearest field, and they were on national forest lands. Additionally, the group was driving off road and using their vehicles as an aid to the hunt. A call to the CAP hotline with detailed information on vehicle makes, models, colors, and even an approximate year of manufacture along with a description of those involved enabled responding officers to quickly locate the group.
Senior Conservation Officer Andy Smith and Conservation Officer Nic DeBolt contacted two of the vehicles and five of the hunters at the site. District Conservation Officer Justin Williams contacted the sixth person in the third vehicle near the town of Leadore. Armed with the information from the witnesses the officers quickly determined that a number of violations had occurred. The group claimed they didn’t kill any elk, but a search of the area revealed a different story. A cow had been shot and left to waste. Evidence collected from the shooters and evidence found at the scene linked one of the five shooters to the killing of that elk. Additional information revealed that the shooter had also killed an elk earlier in the season resulting in several other violations.
Kelly Cook pled guilty in Lemhi County Magistrate Court to waste of game, exceed the big game bag limit, and taking elk during a closed season. He was sentenced by the Honorable Judge Stephen J. Clark to pay fines and restitution in the amount of $2,357 and his hunting privileges were revoked for 5 years.
Lance MacFarlane pled guilty to attempt to take elk during a closed season and hunting with the aid of a motorized vehicle. He was sentenced to pay $886 in fines, had his hunting privileges revoked for 1 year, and ordered to perform 10 hours of community service.
Three others in the group were also charged but their names are not being released pending court adjudication.
"Without the detailed call from the concerned hunters, we never could have made this case," said Conservation Officer Nic DeBolt. "We need other hunters to be our eyes in the field. We need them to call the CAP hotline when they witness a wildlife crime."
Two men who trespassed to poach deer in Lemhi County won’t be legally hunting in Idaho anytime soon.
On December 7, 2014, conservation officers received a trespass call from a landowner near the town of Lemhi Idaho, who said hunters had trespassed and shot a deer in their field. The suspects fled the scene with the deer, but were caught by conservation officers on Hwy 33 near I-15. When officers looked in vehicles they found the mule deer from the trespassing complaint, and parts and pieces of four other deer adding up to five total animals for only four hunters. Officers discovered multiple violations in addition to the trespassing, including tagging violations, taking mule deer during closed season, possession of unlawfully taken deer, failing to leave evidence of sex and species naturally attached to the carcass and purchase of a wrong class license. The majority of the deer meat was seized, and DNA samples were taken to determine their species as the mule deer season was closed.
At the hunters’ abandoned camp officers found three of the deer carcasses. One had only the hind quarters and back-straps removed, while the rest of the meat was left to waste. Officers were unable to locate the fifth deer carcass at that time, but suspected another mule deer had been taken, based on the size of the hind-quarters. Further investigation revealed one hunter was a non-resident who had purchased resident licenses and tags. Officers also learned that same suspect killed a mountain lion in 2009 without a tag.
An eventual confession led officers to the carcass of the other mule deer which was taken in the closed season. The suspects had dumped it along the Salmon River, and had left most of the meat, including both front shoulders, to waste.
All four men pleaded guilty and received the following sentences:Chad Anderson of Heber City, Utah: Unlawfully taking two or more big game animals within a 12 month period, Wasteful destruction of game, purchase of wrong class licenses and trespassing.
Early in 2012, Senior Conservation Officer Greg Johnson received an anonymous tip the Todd Navarro had taken three men from Williston, ND on an illegal mountain lion hunt in Boundary County. None of the three men had a current Idaho hunting license or mountain lion tag. The informant continued to tell Officer Johnson that all three had killed lions with the aid of hounds, and that they had paid $500 each to Mr. Navarro. Mr. Navarro is not a licensed outfitter or guide in Idaho, so he could not legally guide anyone. Hunting with hounds in Idaho as a nonresident also requires a hound hunter permit, which is very limited and can be obtained by special drawing only.
Following up on that tip Officer Johnson discovered that Todd Navarro, his son Jacob Navarro, and their friend Chris Wilson all reported killing mountain lions, in a two day period the previous week. Officer’s Johnson and Dave Overman contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service and North Dakota Game and Fish for assistance. ND Wildlife Officer Brent Schwan located three Idaho mountain lion hides at a taxidermy shop in Williston. The taxidermy records showed that Eric Harmel, Dwayne Hellman, and Richard Gustafson, all from Williston, claimed the three lions.
Officers Overman and Dan Hislop drove the 750 miles from Coeur d’Alene, ID to Williston, ND to interview the three men, all of whom confessed to knowingly killing lions illegally in Idaho. Officers seized skulls, hides, and archery equipment, all of which had been associated with the illegal hunt. All six men were charged with Lacey Act violations in federal court. Under the Lacey Act, any unlawfully taken animal that crosses state lines becomes a federal violation.
In August 2012 Gustafson, Harmel, and Hellman all pled guilty at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene. They were each sentenced to pay $4800 in fines, fees and restitution, perform 25 hours of community service, lose hunting privileges in the US for one year, and forfeit their bows, and the lion skulls and hides.
In May 2014 Jacob Navarro and Chris Wilson both pled guilty in federal court and received $775 and $525 in fines and fees respectively, and both lost their US hunting privileges for three years.
In October 2014 Todd Navarro pled guilty in federal court and was sentenced to pay $525 in fines and fees, five years of probation, and a five year loss of hunting privileges in the United States. He is also required to complete 50 hours of community service and take a hunter education class.
This case was an excellent example of several different agencies working together to combat wildlife crime. North Dakota Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, Idaho Fish and Game, and the US Attorney’s Office all worked together to successfully bring this case to a close.