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Category: Poaching

Idaho resident convicted of wolf poaching is fined and banned from hunting


An Idaho resident cited for illegally killing a wolf and hunting from a public road has been convicted on both charges and has been banned from hunting for one year and fined more than $1,000.

The Associated Press reports that Randy Strickland of Eagle, Idaho, was also sentenced to six months in jail, though the judge suspended five months 28 days of that sentence and instead ordered him to perform 40 hours of community service.

The incident, previously reported on Outposts, took place in September 2009, when the then-unidentified Strickland was witnessed shooting a young female wolf while standing in the road behind his truck. That type of hunting is illegal.

Strickland phoned Idaho Fish and Game to report his kill, saying the animal was taken in the Sawtooth zone, where hunting season opened Sept. 1.

When checking the wolf in with the Fish and Game office in Nampa, the hunter said that after studying a map he realized he was actually in the McCall-Weiser zone, where the season didn't begin until Oct. 1.

Fish and Game officers issued citations for shooting a wolf in a closed season and for shooting from a public road. They also confiscated the wolf hide and skull as well as Strickland's rifle, camera and wolf tag.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Gray wolf. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Arrest made in Arizona bighorn-sheep poaching case

Bighorn A follow-up to an item previously posted on Outposts:

The Arizona Game and Fish Department has arrested and charged an individual with four wildlife law violations in connection with the alleged illegal killing of a bighorn sheep ram near the southern shore of Canyon Lake, northeast of Apache Junction.

Though two bighorn sheep were found dead, the male suspect only was charged in connection with poaching one of them. More charges may be pending, based on evidence seized at the suspect's home and the ongoing investigation.

The arrest was made after the department received information through its Operation Game Thief hot line, which the public could use to report wildlife violations confidentially.

Operation Game Thief program manager Ken Dinquel said it was gratifying to have had the support of hunters and members of the public in helping report these types of cases.

"Although hunters pay for the largest share of wildlife conservation through license and tag fees, poaching adversely affects more than just hunters," said Dinquel. "Poachers steal from everyone because wildlife is managed in the public trust for all citizens to enjoy."

Multiple tips came in after the department issued a news release May 4 about the two dead bighorn sheep rams, offering a reward of up to $8,000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect. The Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society also offered a reward of up to $1,000 per sheep for information leading to a conviction in either case, and the Arizona Bowhunters Assn. added an additional $1,000 reward for a conviction.

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Up to $10,000 reward offered in dual bighorn sheep ram poaching incident in Arizona


The Arizona Game and Fish Department is asking for the public’s help in finding the individual or individuals responsible for the poaching of two bighorn sheep rams at Canyon Lake, northeast of Apache Junction, on April 19 or 20.

The department’s Operation Game Thief program is offering a reward of up to $8,000 for the arrest of whoever committed this crime. Additionally, the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society has offered a reward of $1,000 per bighorn for a criminal conviction in the case.

The two rams were illegally shot and killed along the southern shore of Canyon Lake, west of Beer Can Point. Because of the rugged area where the carcasses were found, department investigators believe that the poachers reached the area by boat.

"These aren’t the actions of a hunter," said Brian Anthony, wildlife manager of the Game and Fish Department's Mesa office. "They’re acts of criminals stealing wildlife assets and resources from the people of Arizona."

One ram had the head and horns removed and taken, with the rest of the carcass left behind. The second, located approximately 100 yards from the first, was killed and left at the scene intact.

"While the locations of the two animals killed are about 100 yards apart, we believe that the bighorn rams were poached by the same subject or subjects," Anthony said. "The poacher left the animals to waste, and we need assistance from the public to find who committed these senseless acts."

He added, "Bighorn sheep are one of the crown jewels of Arizona’s wildlife resources. The department, in cooperation with the Arizona Desert Bighorn Sheep Society, has spent a considerable amount of time, money and resources in bolstering this local bighorn herd. This senseless poaching is a setback for the program."

To report information on this incident, call the Operation Game Thief toll-free hotline, (800) 352-0700, or go online to www.azgfd.gov/thief. Caller identities may remain confidential on request.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Desert bighorn sheep ram. Credit: Gary M. Stolz / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Idaho poacher receives lifetime hunting ban as part of his sentence

 Elk in sunrise mist.

An Idaho Falls, Idaho, man has received a lifetime hunting ban as part of his sentence after pleading guilty to illegally killing five cow elk, with the Lemhi County prosecuting attorney calling the crime "one of the most egregious poaching cases I've ever seen."

Jerry G. Ferguson, 54, pleaded guilty to the felony charge of unlawful taking of big-game animals. His sentence also includes 60 days in jail and a $7,500 fine. Ferguson is also barred from possessing a firearm in the field or being in hunting camps for 10 years, reports the Idaho Statesman.

According to court documents, Ferguson shot and killed five cow elk in one day during a central Idaho hunting trip in December 2008. Hunters are only allowed one elk during open season.

Ryan Hilton, Idaho Fish and Game senior conservation officer, called Ferguson's actions "disgraceful."

"This was no accident, and not what we need pretending to represent what a sportsman really is," Hilton said.

The hunting prohibition will be enforced elsewhere in the nation. Idaho is a member of the 31-state Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, an agreement that recognizes suspension of hunting, trapping and fishing licenses in member states, including California.

Ferguson's lifetime hunting ban can be reviewed in 10 years. 

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: An elk in sunrise mist. Credit: Barbara Swanson / San Diego Natural History Museum

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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I use fish carcasses to bait my crab traps?

Dungeness crabs in a crab trap.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday afternoon or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I belong to a popular fishing forum on the Internet, and most of my fellow sport fishermen say that when they bait their crab traps/pots, they can use whatever bait they want. Many people are using the carcasses from regulated game fish, such as rockfish, after the fish have been filleted. During previous salmon seasons, they used salmon carcasses too. Isn’t there something in the regulations about this subject? If a person saves their fish carcasses in their freezer, for instance, and then goes out and uses those carcasses in their crab traps, isn’t that still considered "possession"? If I put out crab pots baited with rockfish carcasses, spend the day catching my limit of rockfish and then come back to pull my pots to head back in, I not only have my legal limit of fresh rockfish, but also a bunch of other rockfish carcasses. And what about having those carcasses when a fish isn’t even in season?

I seem to be alone in believing that we need to follow certain rules about using fish as crab bait, and now I am very anxious to clear this up once and for all, with your help. Thank you so much for your time and consideration in this matter. (Cat C., North Fork)

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Undersize lobster poaching cases on the rise in Orange County

Legal-sized lobster caught after a day of fishing aboard lobster boat Arlene M along the Ventura County coast. California Department of Fish and Game wardens have been dealing with a spate of lobster poaching cases in Orange County recently, all of which involved undersized crustaceans.

On Dec. 13, a father and son from Dana Point were caught with 22 lobsters, 21 of which were undersized.

On Jan. 29, a Bloomington resident was found in possession of 39 lobsters, 38 of which were undersized.

On Feb. 2, David Frederick of Norwalk was sentenced to 33 days in jail for selling 22 undersized lobsters for $85. Witnesses at the scene told wardens that Frederick had sold lobsters at the same location in the past.

The legal limit is seven lobsters per person, with a minimum size limit of 3 1/4-inch carapace length. Anything smaller than this is undersized, or "short."

These regulations are in place in an effort to allow lobster the chance to reproduce at least once before they grow large enough to be taken.

"Poachers who profit from the sale of California's fisheries put the resource at risk," said Dan Sforza, a lieutenant with Fish and Game's Law Enforcement Division. "Local lobster populations will suffer severe declines if poaching activity is left unchecked."

The effort that Fish and Game officers put into investigating these cases is commendable. But there are only a few hundred wardens spread throughout California, so anyone who spots what appears to be nefarious activity should call the confidential toll-free tip number, (888) 334-2258, to report it. After all, these people are stealing natural resources from all of us.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Legal-sized lobster caught along the Ventura County coast during a day of fishing aboard the lobster boat Arlene M. Credit: Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times

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2009 was another year of extreme poaching cases for California Fish and Game wardens

Lt. Chris Graff, of the California Department of Fish and Game, measures a legal-sized lobster in this 2002 photo.

California Department of Fish and Game wardens had a busy year in 2009 investigating illegal hunting and fishing cases statewide. Many involved repeat poaching offenders who were stealing California's natural resources for profit, undeterred by prior convictions and sentences.

"Our game wardens are expertly trained to investigate complex wildlife crimes, arrest suspects and ultimately protect the resources that belong to all Californians," said Nancy Foley, the department's law enforcement division chief.

"Although the vast majority of California's hunters and anglers are law-abiding and respectful of our resources, these repeat poachers and other criminals pose a constant challenge to our investigators."

A few of the most egregious cases from last year include:

-- Binh Chau, 35, of San Diego, was arrested for the fifth time in less than three years on suspicion of poaching lobsters in the La Jolla Conservation Area. Chau gained notoriety after his second lobster-poaching arrest, when he was found to be hiding six lobsters in his pants.

-- A Sacramento deer-poaching ring was exposed after poachers were observed killing deer in the Sierra foothills and then arrested in the act of selling the meat. DNA analysis by Fish and Game’s Wildlife Forensics Laboratory identified 28 deer recovered at one suspect’s residence.

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Olympic National Park elk poacher fined $2,500 for killing trophy bull

Photo of Robert Hurst with the trophy elk he killed in Washington's Olympic National Park.

A poacher was ordered to pay a $2,500 fine and sentenced to three years probation and the loss of hunting privileges for the same length of time after pleading guilty to illegally killing a trophy elk in a national park in 2007.

Robert Hurst (pictured), of Woodland, Wash., was sentenced today in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma for hunting, killing and transporting a trophy-sized Roosevelt bull elk from within Olympic National Park.

According to the U.S. attorney's office for the western district of Washington, Hurst, 38, entered the park, called the bull to him by bugling, and then killed it with a bow and arrow. He then field-dressed the elk and packed the animal out over the course of several days.

A hunter outside the park observed Hurst and two companions carrying the elk head. The hunter notified Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers, leading agents to make contact with Hurst.

The two-year investigation which led to Hurst's sentence was conducted jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife enforcement program.

I applaud the court for penalizing Hurst for his actions, but the fine seems paltry, considering the time and effort put into the investigation by all agencies involved. Poachers steal resources belonging to others, with potentially damaging consequences, and they tarnish the image of legitimate hunters and conservationists.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Robert Hurst with the trophy elk he killed in Washington's Olympic National Park. Credit: United States attorney's office, western district of Washington.

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Sturgeon poachers convicted and will lose fishing privileges for three years

Mr. Bubbles, a sturgeon that is part of the Dept of Fish and Game's mobile fishing exhibit.

Five Colusa County men convicted of poaching sturgeon from the Sacramento River have been fined, sentenced to probation and have had their fishing privileges revoked for three years.

Department of Fish and Game wardens had the men under 24-hour surveillance for a month prior to their arrest in April 2009.

The men had been observed night fishing on the Sacramento River, using unlawful methods to catch sturgeon and catching and keeping more than their legal limit.

Two of the men were also observed selling the fish, leading to charges of poaching sturgeon for commercial use. The commercial harvest of white sturgeon in California has been illegal for 100 years.

"The commercial poaching of sturgeon was the cause of the species' near-extinction in the early 1900s," said Kathy Ponting of the DFG Special Operations Unit.

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Fish poachers taking advantage of Florida's cold snap

Common snook during warmer weather. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers are dealing with another effect of the brutal cold snap hitting the state -- fish poachers.

The drop in temperature is making some fish so lethargic that they are just floating to the water's surface and being grabbed up by unethical fishermen, who are taking fish by the hundreds in some instances, reports Florida TV station WFTV.

"We're seeing them using dip nets, and using boats, but you can get them from the shoreline," said FWC officer Steve Van Nortwyck.

The department is receiving reports of filleted fish littering shorelines. A poacher left behind a pile of more than 100 snook carcasses under a dock in New Smyrna Beach, on the eastern shore of the state. Snook season is closed, so possessing even a single fish is a second-degree misdemeanor.

FWC officers are patrolling waterways in an effort to halt the massive fish grab, and have arrested at least five people so far.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Common snook during warmer weather. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

Note: To follow this blog on Twitter please visit @latimesoutposts

Spate of poaching incidents has Arizona Game and Fish Department asking for the public's help

A bull elk makes its high-pitched mating call.

A rash of poaching incidents this month has Arizona Game and Fish Department officers asking for the public's help in apprehending those responsible.

Two elk and one mule deer were recently found dead within close proximity to each other along the Perkinsville highway, about 30 miles south of Williams near the Prescott National Forest boundary. All three animals had been shot and decapitated and the carcasses were left to waste, though a hindquarter from one of the elk had been removed. 

"As with many poaching cases, we need help from the public. Someone may have been in this area recently and seen or heard something associated with these cases," said Game and Fish wildlife manager Mike Rice.

Earlier this month, Game and Fish Department officers discovered a bull elk that had been killed near the Williams airport, and a trophy-class mule deer buck that had been shot and killed near the Arizona-Utah border. Although officials suspect that the elk shooting may have been accidental -- it occurred during the open cow elk hunting season -- they said the shooting of the mule deer was definitely an illegal act, as there were no deer hunting seasons open.

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Florida man in hot water after bust on turnpike reveals undersized lobster tails

Lobsterbust Authorities on the Florida Turnpike made a mouthwatering discovery after a traffic stop on Wednesday: 232 lobster tails, 167 of them undersized.

Palm Beach County sheriff's deputies figured something was amiss when they discovered the tails lined inside a large cooler.

They summoned wardens with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Alberto Varea, the alleged culprit, is now in substantially hot water, facing second-degree misdemeanor charges.

"This is a perfect example how interagency cooperation often results in detection of major wildlife law violations," said Lt. Chuck Russo of the FWC. "This case is a sad example that shows some people have no respect for Florida's natural resources."

It remains unclear what will become of the tails.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Lobster tails discovered Wednesday by officers after a traffic stop on the Florida Turnpike. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.