Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: Poaching

Sea Shepherd crew being watched closely by Japanese whale hunters

Watson1 Capt. Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society crew are only three days into their mission to locate the Japanese whaling fleet and disrupt its annual Antarctic region hunt, and they themselves have been located and are being watched.

Watson reported that an unidentified aircraft -- a possible spotter plane -- had circled the Sea Shepherd vessel Steve Irwin and that a white harpoon vessel began following the Steve Irwin from just beyond Australia's 200-mile boundary.

Watson changed course several times, and each time, he said, the harpoon vessel followed suit. “It looks like we have an escort to Antarctica,” Watson said on the group's website.

Watson added that he believed the fleet of whaling ships was accompanied this year by a security force. If that's true, this season's installment of Animal Planet's popular "Whale Wars" series could be the most dramatic yet.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Paul Watson. Credit: Adam Lau / Sea Shepherd

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

Trophy-size black bear illegally killed over bait pile of pastries

Glazed doughnuts.

A Pennsylvania hunter is facing poaching charges after admitting to shooting a 707-pound black bear over a bait pile of pastries.

With the opening of the statewide bear-hunting season nearing, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer Cory Bentzoni became suspicious when he saw a truck loaded with pastries last month.

"Being that we were so close to bear season, seeing that person drive by with an unusual amount of pastries was like watching an individual go down a row of parked vehicles testing each handle to see if it were open," Bentzoni said in a department press release. "Something just didn't seem right."

Bentzoni noted the license plate of the truck and found it registered not to Homer Simpson but to Charles Olsen Jr., of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He then contacted all Game Commission personnel at area bear-check stations and asked them to notify him if Olsen brought a bear in.

Olsen did bring a bear to a station, and not just any bear but one with an estimated live weight of 707 pounds -- the largest of the season.

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New 'Whale Wars' season begins as Sea Shepherd seeks Japanese fleet

Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society embarked Monday in an effort to locate Japanese whalers in the Antarctic region and disrupt their hunts.

The campaign also marked the beginning of Animal Planet's third season of "Whale Wars." For the third time, a film crew has joined Sea Shepherd in a Southern Ocean campaign that will last into February. The series premiere will be in June.

Is Animal Planet in this for the cause, or purely for the ratings?

Marjorie Kaplan, president and general manager of Animal Planet, said in a news release being issued today: "The issues surrounding whaling in the southern ocean are important and complex. The majesty of these beautiful creatures and the lengths to which the Sea Shepherds will go in order to prevent whaling has made WHALE WARS intense and vital television. 

"We are excited to be on the Sea Shepherd boats again this season for what looks likely to be an even more dramatic campaign than in years past.  And, as in prior seasons, we wish we could capture the experience on the Japanese boats as well but our request for access continues to be declined.”

Japan, which employs a "lethal research" loophole in the wording of an international moratorium to justify its hunts, annually targets nearly 1,000 minke whales and about 50 endangered fin whales.

It will take awhile for the Sea Shepherd's flagship vessel, Steve Irwin, to reach the whaling grounds and locate the whalers, but Outposts will follow the story and provide updates as warranted.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Sea Shepherd's ship, Steve Irwin, collides with the stern of Japanese harpoon whaling ship Yushin Maru No. 2, while the factory ship the Nisshin Maru, background, processes a minke whale. Credit: Adam Lau/Sea Shepherd

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

Charges filed in shooting death of bear near Mammoth Lakes

A Victorville man who shot and killed a black bear on the shore of Lake Mary in late September has been charged with two misdemeanors: unlawful take of a bear and shooting in an unlawful area.

Roy Flores, 60, had been fishing with a female companion and claimed he shot the 175-pound bear in self defense. The animal reportedly had twice gone after their food. 

In an Outposts story after the incident, Don Barrett, who runs Lake Mary Marina & Store, said he heard the shot and was told by witnesses the bear was standing on its hind legs when it was shot. Flores used a .44-caliber revolver to kill the bear.

Barrett also said bears that visit the lake during the summer and early fall have learned to frighten anglers from their fishing spots, then steal their stringers of fish from the shallows.

Mono County District Attorney George Booth told Outposts the case against Flores is scheduled for Dec. 21 in Mammoth Lakes.

-- Pete Thomas

Poacher hit with $30,000 fine and 10-year hunting ban for killing two deer

Young mule deer buck in velvet.

A Wyoming man has been ordered to pay a $30,000 fine and has been barred from hunting and from accompanying anyone else hunting for 10 years for shooting two mule deer from his pickup truck.

In a plea agreement, Casper, Wyo. resident Timothy Alme also received two years suspended jail time and had to forfeit the rifle used to shoot the animals.

Wyoming Game and Fish wardens were originally tipped off by a state Highway Patrol officer, who was investigating a traffic accident involving a guard rail and a pickup truck, which was abandoned along the highway. During the investigation, the officer noticed a lot of blood and deer hair in the bed of the vehicle,  registered to Alme.

A consented search of Alme's residence by game warden Shawn Blajszczak turned up four deer carcasses, only two that were confirmed to be legally harvested.

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Fish and Game Q&A: Can I be cited for taking bear meat without the shooter being present?

A treed black bear.

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 went hunting with my brother-in-law recently. He was hunting for bear and I was hunting for mountain quail and gray squirrels. He had a bear tag and I didn’t. Fortunately, he was lucky enough to shoot a nice one that was about 200 to 250 pounds. We were unable at the time to take the whole bear home so he decapitated the bear, stuffed the head in his backpack and gave me about 50 lbs. of meat to take home in my backpack. We left the rest of the body there and agreed to go back for it later.

When we got home, he asked his brother and me to pick up the rest of the body because he had to go to work. I refused to do so because I thought it would not be legal since I was not the shooter. He told me it should be all right and that if I was stopped by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), I should just call him at work to verify the kill. I still didn’t go and we got into an argument. In this situation, could I have been cited for taking the bear meat without the shooter being present? Thanks! (Alex V.)

Answer: If you accompany a person in the field who is legally hunting bear and you have a firearm, archery equipment or other means capable of taking a bear, then it is reasonable to assume you are also taking bear. In addition, you could also be cited if you do not have a valid bear tag of your own. Your explanation that you were hunting squirrels would likely not be acceptable to a game warden, especially given that you helped transport some of the bear.

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Nebraska poaching conviction leads to record fine

Deer Three Nebraska men convicted of illegally killing deer have been ordered to pay fines and restitution in excess of $20,000, the largest penalty for such crimes in state history since electronic records began being kept in 1996.

Nebraska Game and Parks Commission reports that a Cherry County court judge assessed a combined $20,145 in fines, damages and court costs to Merriman, Neb. residents Nathan Chappell, Kip Castellaw and Ernie Bennett after each pleaded guilty to poaching five mule deer.

The men were originally charged with 30 counts each for game law violations, including hunting during a closed season, criminal trespass, hunting with artificial light and wanton waste, though five of the counts were dismissed in a plea agreement.

The poachers shot and killed five deer and left four of the dead animals in a field, taking the largest and displaying it on a flatbed trailer (what nincompoops, considering it was closed season). The buck's inside antler spread was 4-1/2 inches shy of the 24 inches that would have added a mandatory $5,000 fine for trophy penalty status.

"It is extremely gratifying when landowners, prosecutors and judges work together with law enforcement to bring poachers to justice," said NGPC conservation officer Heath Packett, who investigated the case.

All three men will also have their hunting and fishing privileges suspended for three years.

This callous waste of animals is an insult to legitimate hunters. Hopefully the hefty fine and three-year suspension for this reprehensible act will make these men think twice about doing something like this again.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Mule deer buck. Credit: Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times

Reward increases for information on illegal shooting of 800-pound grizzly bear in Montana

A large adult grizzly bear (not the one shot) faces the camera.
The reward being offered for information on who illegally shot and killed an 800-pound grizzly bear in Montana has grown to more than $11,000. (The bear killed is not the one in the above photo.)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has begun distributing posters touting the large reward, recently sweetened to $11,800 after other organizations and private individuals, including Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, local ranchers and Defenders of Wildlife, committed funds for information leading to the conviction of the poacher or poachers.

"Interest in prosecuting the individual or individuals responsible for this illegal shooting has grown and so has the reward," said FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim.

The reward is for tips on who killed the 800-pound bear only. The Fish and Wildlife Service is also investigating two other illegal grizzly shootings in the same area.

The bear was one that FWP officials were familiar with, having accidentally captured it in 2007 while doing a population study. It is believed to have been one of the largest male grizzlies in the region -- the average weight for such animals is approximately 600 pounds.

Anyone with information on the shooting is asked to contact TIP-MONT, the statewide FWP anti-poaching hotline, at (800) 847-6668.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A large adult grizzly bear faces the camera. Credit: Joel Sartore / National Geographic / Getty Images

Bear poachers from Ohio nabbed and arraigned in West Virginia

Officers pose with black bears that were killed illegally and discovered as part of an investigation in West Virginia.

Poachers of wildlife seem to be making headlines every day somewhere in the country, tarnishing the image of legitimate hunters.

The latest story involves eight Ohio residents who traveled to West Virginia to carry out their dirty deeds, which involved illegally baiting black bears to a specific site and shooting them from elevated camouflaged stands.

They were apprehended after a long investigation by West Virginia Division of Natural Resources conservation officers and Wildlife Resources personnel.

“This group of hunters, all of whom were residents of Ohio, had been participating in this type of illegal activity for a period of several years,” said Capt. Michael Waugh of the Division of Natural Resources' District 3 office in Elkins. “They had purchased their bait, which consisted of donuts and corn, from multiple out-of-state vendors. The bait was then hauled into the area by truck and distributed to the bait sites using all-terrain vehicles. This out-of-state purchase and interstate transport of the bait is believed to have been an effort on the part of the poachers to conceal the quantities of bait, the purposes for which it was being purchased, and to avert suspicion in the areas they were baiting.”

Investigators uncovered seven baited shooting sites in Nicholas County. The alleged culprits -- two have yet to be arraigned -- were arrested at a cabin used as a base camp and at shooting sites. Two large adult black bears (pictured) and large quantities of bait were seized at the base camp. Two other bears had reportedly been transported out of state, and a request for assistance in recovering these animals has been made to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under provisions of the Lacey Act.

Black bear parts -- especially gallbladders, which are coveted as medicinal or as an aphrodisiac in some parts of the world -- are often sold by poachers on the black market.

Six of the men were arraigned and fined more than $2,000 apiece and given 100-day jail sentences that were suspended contingent upon payment of fines.

The officers are to be commended, but the penalties do not seem severe enough considering the apparent scope of this poaching operation.

-- Pete Thomas

Photo: Officers pose with black bears that were killed illegally and discovered as part of an investigation in West Virginia. Credit: West Virginia Division of Natural Resources

National Hunting and Fishing Day -- do you approve of this celebration?

An angler casts a fly into the Owens River in the Eastern Sierra.

National Hunting and Fishing Day is Saturday and I'll celebrate by stalking trout on the shores of some Eastern Sierra creek. I can't wait.

In the extended-entry field below is President Obama's official proclamation.

The first such proclamation was made in 1972 by President Nixon, who said: "I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in inspiring their proper management for the benefit of future generations."

In Obama's version are these words: "If not for America's great hunters and anglers, like President Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, our nation would not enjoy sound game management; a system of ethical, science-based game laws; and an extensive public lands estate on which to pursue these sports."

The landscape has changed vastly since Roosevelt's time, to be sure. Obama must have known he'd wind up in the cross hairs of critics who don't hunt or fish, and who oppose both pastimes on mere principle.

In an L.A. Times Top of the Ticket blog post, for example, it was pointed out that Obama's proclamation was being issued "on the eve of that special season when so many Americans blast migrating ducks out of the sky and blow large holes in the side of fleeing deer."

The words of an anti-hunter are often harsh. But the truth is, hunters and fishermen are closer to the Earth and place more value on the environment than most of their critics. And they contribute more toward conservation.

Ducks Unlimited, to cite one example, is the world's leader in waterfowl and wetlands conservation. Simply, there would not be nearly as many ducks filling our flyways were it not  for this organization. Trout Unlimited, likewise, has done more to conserve fisheries than any animal rights group that I know of.

As for wildlife management, states accomplish this via hunting, and as of yet nobody has come up with a better means of controlling animal populations -- a necessity in an age when civilization is increasingly encroaching into wilderness.

Hunting and fishing, additionally, are an economic force worth billions annually. Much of the money spent by hunters and anglers is used toward conservation of wildlife and fisheries. National Hunting and Fishing Day is about recognizing these contributions and more; it's about traditions dating to our ancestors.

So I'll venture out Saturday in support. I hope I catch some fish but that will be secondary to the fact that I'll be among the conifers and critters, far from the bustle and grind. That's what fishing means to me.

Here is the president's proclamation:

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Fish and Game Q&A: Is it a steelhead or a rainbow trout?

An unidentified angler shows off the steelhead trout he caught before releasing it. 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 have been trying to decipher the wild steelhead regulations and the definition of anadromous waters. Based on what I’ve read, I believe a rainbow trout is considered to be a wild steelhead if it meets the following criteria: 1) is 16 inches in length or greater, 2) has an intact adipose fin, and 3) resides in anadromous waters (waters that somehow connect to the ocean). Is this accurate? Are there wild steelhead trout in non-anadromous waters?

Also, if I’m fishing in a body of water known to have wild trout, do I need to have a Steelhead Report Card in case I catch a rainbow that fits the steelhead description listed above? Thank you. (Larry G.)

Answer: Steelhead are rainbow trout that migrated out of fresh water as juveniles and spent some portion of their life in the ocean before returning to fresh water to spawn. According to steelhead program coordinator Terry Jackson, adult California steelhead are usually at least 16 inches in length. It is not possible to be sure, however, if a large rainbow trout (16 inches or larger) in anadromous waters has been to the ocean without examining a scale (fish scales can be “read” like tree rings) or an otolith (a bone in its head, which unfortunately requires sacrificing the fish), so this regulation reflects probabilities based on years of data.

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Idaho resident cited for illegal wolf hunting


An Eagle, Idaho, resident has been cited for illegally killing a wolf and for hunting from a public road, which is also unlawful.

The unidentified hunter was witnessed shooting a young female wolf on Sunday while standing behind his truck.

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

When checking the wolf in at 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 doesn't begin until Oct. 1. The kill will be deducted from this zone's wolf hunting quota of 15.

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 the man's rifle, camera and wolf tag.

The investigation is ongoing, and charges have not yet been filed with the court. No word on what penalties the hunter will face if guilty of these charges, should they be filed.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo courtesy of National Parks Conservation Assn.


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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.