Star of reality TV hunting show Wildgame Nation sentenced for poaching in Lincoln County
Kemmerer – On May 23, 2017 Billy A. Busbice Jr. of Olla, Louisiana appeared before Lincoln County Circuit Court Judge Frank Zebre and pled guilty to charges of intentionally allowing an antlerless elk to go to waste and an additional charge of taking an elk without the proper license. Busbice stars on Wildgame Nation, a reality hunting show on the Outdoor Channel, and also owns an outdoor products company.
The case started on October 16, 2016 when Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird received a report from a group of hunters that had observed a possible wildlife violation on the Spring Creek Ranch, which is owned by Busbice, on La Barge Creek. "The hunters told me that on the morning of October 15th they observed a man hunting on the ranch," Baird said. "Apparently, there was a younger man with the hunter who had a video camera and appeared to be filming the hunt. They watched the hunter shoot one elk, presumably a cow, and then shoot a bull. The first elk fell within around 60 yards of where the bull went down. They observed the hunter and the cameraman walk up to look at the bull and then leave the area."
Warden Baird also was told that another man came and field dressed the bull and hauled it away with a backhoe. "The hunters told me the first elk, which was later determined to be a bull calf, still lay in the meadow after the man had taken the bull away with the backhoe," Baird said.
Baird knew Busbice had a Commissioner's elk license and that there had been a very large bull elk frequenting the ranch. On October 17th Baird met with Busbice before he flew to Louisiana. Baird's summary of this encounter is that after a short interview, Busbice admitted to having accidently killed a calf elk while trying to harvest the large bull. Busbice stated that after the sun had gone down he had instructed the ranch manager and the cameraman to drag the calf elk into an irrigation ditch to conceal it. No attempt to field dress or preserve meat from the calf was made. Interviews of the cameraman and the ranch manager revealed similar stories and the men admitted to concealing the calf in the ditch and disposing of the bull's gut pile in the creek. Busbice admitted that he did not call Warden Baird because he was concerned about having recently been cited for previous wildlife violations. At this time Warden Baird seized both elk from Busbice and an unedited video of his hunt.
"Mr. Busbice told me they had been filming the elk hunt to feature on his reality TV hunting show," Baird said. The video and audio recording shows that Mr. Busbice shot several times at a large bull in a herd of elk and missed several times. The video then shows Mr. Busbice shooting and hitting a calf, and the calf goes down.
"On his fourth shot, Busbice hits the bull in the left shoulder," Baird said. It then falls to the ground. At the end of the video you can hear Busbice say, "We have to eliminate that part when I shot a cow." He also is recorded saying, "Yeah, but we got to get rid of that cow."
Judge Zebre sentenced Mr. Busbice to 180 days of jail suspended, providing that he lead a law abiding life during one and a half years of unsupervised probation; he was sentenced to pay the maximum fines for both violations and the maximum in restitution for the illegal take of both elk for a total of $23,000.00; and had all of his game and fish license privileges revoked for two years to include all of 2017 and 2018. Because Wyoming is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, this loss of his license privileges applies in 45 states, including his home state of Louisiana.
"There are many take-home messages from this event," Baird said. "We are extremely grateful to the sportsmen that reported these violations. The successful prosecution of this case likely would not have happened without them."
"The bull elk he was convicted of shooting illegally was a highly visible large bull elk. The bull roughly scored over 350 inches. Mr. Busbice was also cited earlier in 2016 of false oath for purchasing a resident general elk license as a nonresident and purchasing more than the authorized number of deer licenses and paid $1430.00 in fines for those violations.
Poached Antelope Case Solved
Buffalo – On May 10th, Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman received a report of a dead antelope that appeared to have been shot south of Buffalo on the Bull Creek state lands. Seeman arrived at the location and found a buck antelope that had been shot in the back of the neck. The only evidence Seeman was able to obtain from the field necropsy of the antelope was a small piece of orange plasticâ€“the polycarbonate tip of the bullet that killed the animal. Seeman suspected the animal had been shot the previous evening from the county road. Upon examining a portion of the nearby Klonkide Road, he was able to collect evidence where a vehicle had left the road and stopped about 175 yards from the poached antelope. Using a metal detector, Seeman was able to recover a .17 HMR cartridge case.
Photographs of the tire impressions were taken. After visits to the local sporting goods store and tire store, Seeman determined he was looking for a passenger car, a .17 HMR rifle and Hornady brand bullets. With other evidence collected from the scene, including a bag from a fast food restaurant that contained a receipt time dated May 9th at 6:25 p.m., Seeman had a hunch the perpetrators were most likely high school age boys. After two days of following leads and spending time in the Buffalo High School parking lot looking at vehicle tires, Seeman found a Honda Odyssey with the exact tires matching the impressions that were at the scene. In the back of the vehicle was a .17 HMR rifle. With the evidence collected, Seeman was able to get a 17-year-old boy to admit he was out target shooting with a friend and his 11-year-old brother when the antelope was shot.
The small plastic polycarbonate tip from the .17 HMR bullet that killed the poached antelope. Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman found the plastic tip while conducting the field necropsy of the antelope.
Off-road violations on Yellowtail WHMA
Lovell – On April 8, Lovell Game Warden Dillon Herman received a report a possible off-road violation on Yellowtail Wildlife Habitat Management Area. When Herman responded, he found two trucks buried up to their axles off road. "When I reached the last truck, I noticed a whole lot of beer cans and bottles thrown around, and several empty six pack boxes in the back of the stuck truck with batch numbers matching the littered bottles," Herman said.
"That was Saturday, April 8; the trucks had been stuck there since Thursday, April 6. Herman contacted the owner of one of the trucks later in the day when he came back for it. The man reported that several other individuals had been out there with him on one of the nights drinking and trying to get him unstuck. In the process of trying to get one truck unstuck, they drove other trucks off-road and managed to get another truck stuck as well. "Two individuals from Lovell were issued citations for littering and warnings for off-road use. They each received a $160 fine and six hours of community service picking up trash on Yellowtail," Herman said.
A truck that was traveling off-road on Yellowtail WHMA.
Off-road and trespass violations lead to $1,400 in fines
Laramie – Game Warden Jason Sherwood discovered a spate of illegal behavior on a Hunter Management Area south of Laramie recently. Three vehicles were traveling off road and another was being driven on a closed road. All occupants in the vehicles were trespassing and a few attempted to take wildlife without first taking a hunter education class.
More than $1,400 in citations were issued. Prairie dog shooters must remember to ask permission to hunt or ensure they are on public lands. It is illegal to shoot any wildlife from a motorized vehicle (except species legally defined as predators) and it is illegal to shoot from an improved public roadway.
Repeat poacher fined, loses privileges
Laramie – Laramie Region law enforcement personnel are pleased to announce the closure of a significant fish poaching case in March. In 2016, a Laramie man was cited for an over-limit of trout and lost his privileges for a one year period beginning June 9, 2016. However, Game Wardens Jason Sherwood and Bill Brinegar received tips from multiple sources that the man was continuing to fish and keeping several big fish.
Warden Sherwood obtained search warrants for the man, his vehicle, and his home in early November. While attempting to serve the warrants on the morning of Nov. 6, 2016, the suspect was again found to be fishing at Lake Hattie. As Warden Brinegar approached him, the man caught his sixth large trout of the morning. He was arrested for fishing while under suspension and his vehicle was impounded. He was charged with a total of 11 counts of fishing while under suspension and one count of over-limit of game fish.
Via a plea agreement, the prosecution agreed to dismiss one count of taking fish while under suspension and the over-limit charge. The man pleaded guilty to the other 10 charges. He was sentenced to $5,400 in fines and court costs, with an additional $2,200 in restitution for the minimum of 22 fish documented in his possession since June. He was also ordered to pay $720 in public defender fees and had his fishing privilege suspended for six more years. As part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, the suspension applies in Wyoming as well as 44 other states. Assuming no further violations, he will regain his fishing privileges in June of 2023.
Trucks stuck in muck
Laramie – Two men received multiple citations after their vehicles became stuck while hunting jackrabbits on private property. The drivers said they were hunting jackrabbits in the early morning hours. One driver said he had run out of ammunition so he decided to try and chase jackrabbits with his truck. The vehicle got stuck in a marshy area, so he called his friend who was hunting jackrabbits nearby. When his friend came to help, his vehicle also got stuck. The two men spent the remainder of the night sleeping in their trucks because they could not get a hold of anybody else to help them.
The next morning they called their friends to help them, but the friends were spotted by a deputy sheriff who then called the landowners. The landowner would not allow the friends to enter his land, so the deputy called a wrecker to tow them out. The deputy sheriff wrote both men tickets for property destruction and Game Warden Kelly Todd wrote them citations for hunting on private property without permission and for using artificial light while hunting. One of the men also received a citation for shooting from the road.
Poached Great Horned Owl
Casper – West Casper Game Warden Adam Parks recently closed a case involving a tip from the public. The tip stated that an individual, later identified as Larry Coshow, had recently shot and killed a great horned owl with a pellet gun in a west Casper neighborhood.
During an interview with Game Warden Parks, Mr. Coshow admitted to shooting and killing the great horned owl, placing it in a black garbage bag and then throwing it away. Mr. Coshow stated that he was attempting to scare the owl away when he shot. However, he stated that the pellet ricocheted off of a branch and hit the owl in the eye, killing it. Given this information and the statement from the reporting party, Mr. Coshow pled guilty to taking a protected bird.
"This is a case that never would have been solved had the reporting party not gotten involved. As game wardens we encourage the public to call our stop poaching hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP and report suspicious activity as it relates to wildlife, "said Adam Parks.
Powell – Recently, an informational sign at the Willwood public access area south of Powell was vandalized. The new sign, which cost approximately $600 to replace, had recently been installed by the Cody Region Habitat and Access crew to assist sportsmen using the site by providing area specific information and in identifying boundaries.
"The new sign had been shot at close range six times with a shotgun," said Cody Region Habitat and Access Supervisor Brad Sorensen. "We installed the new sign only four months ago, replacing an old sign that had also been shot." Sorensen said that vandalism such as this is far too commonplace on Game and Fish wildlife habitat management areas and public access areas around the region.
Within the Cody region, there are five wildlife habitat management areas and 48 public access areas that provide important access opportunities to the sporting public. "Many of the access areas are private land in which the Game and Fish has purchased an easement so the public can access rivers, creeks, and landlocked public lands," Sorensen said. "Amenities such as informational signs and vault restrooms are often provided at access areas for the convenience and benefit of those using the areas."
"It is difficult to understand why someone would vandalize or shoot at a restroom or a sign that is provided at one of these areas. It is costly and time consuming to replace or repair these items and ultimately, it is sportsmen who are footing the bill for this senseless vandalism."
To report vandalism or misuse of an access area or wildlife habitat management area, call your local game warden, Sheriff's office or the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-WGFD-TIP.
Last December, Habitat and Access technician Kendra Ostrom installed a sign at the Willwood Public Access Area south of Powell.
Lander – Brady Frude was able to track down a violator who, after weighing in a 3 lb rainbow at Lip Rippers, promptly threw it in the dumpster on his way back to the lake. He was able to observe the violation via the security cameras from the neighboring gas station and got photos of the suspect, his vehicle and noted the time he entered and exited the bait store. State Parks rangers tracked the vehicle down at Tough Creek and Brady was able to contact and cite the individual. Thanks to Angela at the Fast Lane and Crystal and Annette at Lip Rippers for their help in solving this case!
Three pound rainbow trout wasted in dumpster
Suspect caught on security camera
Unethical disposal of carcasses
Laramie – A seemingly innocent action by a sloppy goose hunter is another check mark against hunters. While most hunters are ethical and take the necessary steps and care in proper disposal of carcasses, some improperly dump remains in clear view of the public.
South Laramie Game Warden Bill Brinegar said goose hunters have discarded their breasted-out carcasses near a school bus stop south of Laramie in the past two years. Most people don't recognize the difference between a breasted-out carcass and a whole carcass, so they assume no meat was taken from the geese. Warden Brinegar says this has unfortunately become a common occurrence, and it is detrimental to the sport of hunting.
Improperly disposing of game animal remains presents a negative public image and provides a legitimate point of criticism that can be used by people who oppose hunting. "This unethical and sloppy behavior only fuels the fire for those members of society who don't agree with hunters," Brinegar said. Keeping animal carcasses out of view of the public can help prevent a non-hunter from becoming an anti-hunter.
Canada Geese Discarded â€” Edible Portions Not Removed
Gillette – South Gillette Game Warden Dustin Kirsch responded to multiple reports of Canada geese dumped outside of a local hardware store. Kirsch arrived on the scene and searched a garbage dumpster where he recovered the carcasses of 14 Canada geese. Kirsch found the breasts had only been taken from six of the 14 Canada geese, with the other eight Canada Geese being thrown away with no attempt to recover any of the edible portions of meat. A day later a suspect was identified and after being interviewed, confessed to the illegal waste of eight Canada geese and a citation was issued.
Canada geese spread on the ground to sort out possible violations. Eight of the geese were discarded with no attempt to remove edible portions.
Canada geese dumped in a garbage dumpster in Gillette.
Evanston – Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts said the first day of December turned into a memorable day him. "The night prior, I received a call that someone had harvested a bull elk on private property without permission," Roberts said. "Upon arriving at the general location of the bull, I contacted a nearby landowner who suspected a hunter in an ATV had just shot at a herd of elk on his property. I knew that the ATV hunter would eventually be coming back through, so I returned to investigating the bull elk trespass call. While searching for the bull elk carcass, I located a dead cow elk that was not recovered.
"The cow appeared to have died recently and I suspected that the cow was possibly shot with the bull," Roberts said. "I was able to remove a bullet from the cow and then located the carcass of the bull elk nearby. Shortly thereafter, the ATV hunter came driving back through and stated that he was heading back home for the morning. Upon further questioning, the hunter admitted that he took three shots from the county road at a herd of elk crossing the county road. We returned to the location where the elk crossed the road and found a dead cow elk laying just out of sight in the sagebrush. I helped the hunter recover the cow elk and spent the rest of the day making phone calls and trying to piece together who killed the bull and other cow elk."
"The next morning, I received a call from a professional guide who stated that his hunter killed the bull several days prior," Roberts said."I interviewed the hunter who admitted to shooting multiple times at a running herd and accidentally killing the bull on his cow license. I was able to match the bullet from the cow elk back to the same hunter. All in all, that morning led to one citation and one warning for shooting from a road, one citation for taking an over limit of elk, one citation for shooting the wrong sex elk and one citation for a professional guide failing to report a violation. Take home messages and lessons to be learned: follow up your shots and take responsibility for your mistakes. Using good optics is a must.
Lyman – Southwest Access Yes Coordinator Andy Countryman, contacted Timothy Haws while he was elk hunting with his resident general elk license on the Red Dugway Road in Uinta County. Mr. Haws stated he lived in Lyman, Wyoming. However, during Countryman's contact with Mr. Haws, several concerns led him to investigate further into his Mr. Haws' residency status.
"Mr. Haws had been residing in Washington, Utah with his wife and at least one child while making false statements to obtain Wyoming resident hunting and fishing licenses from 2011- 2015," Countryman said. "Twenty false statement violations were detected. Utah and Florida both verified Mr. Haws' purchasing resident hunting and fishing licenses in their states during those years also."
"The case was finalized on December 8th, 2016," Countryman said. "Haws pled guilty to five counts of false swearing to obtain resident Wyoming hunting/fishing licenses from the years 2011-2015. The Uinta County court sentenced Haws to pay $10,880 in fines and restitution and he will have to serve five consecutive days in the Uinta County Detention Center. Also, he will have all Game and Fish license privileges suspended for 10 years and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact agreement of at least 44 states."
Case resolved with help from the public
Cody – Recently, a case involving a poached deer in the city limits of Cody has come to a close, thanks to information provided by local citizens. The case began on Nov. 14, when North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane received a report of an injured mule deer at a residence in Cody. When Crane responded to the report, he discovered a buck deer with an arrow protruding from its hindquarters that had been shot with a crossbow. "The mule deer had been shot illegally because the buck season for the area was closed," Crane said.
Crane dispatched the wounded deer, retrieved the arrow and was able to follow the blood trail of the animal to Alger Avenue. While following the blood trail, Crane was approached by witnesses who reported seeing a man earlier that morning who seemed to be looking for something in the same area. "A couple who lived nearby gave a detailed description of a man they saw searching the area, looking over fences and into backyards," he said. "More information was made available after Game and Fish reached out asking the public to help solve the case through a press release," Crane said. "The fact that we had witnesses who came forward to report suspicious activity was key in solving the case."
In Park County Circuit Court on Jan. 6, Leonard Wascher of Cody was sentenced in this case for the take of a big game animal during a closed season. He was fined $1,000 and will lose his hunting privileges for three years.
Exposed at Expo
Big Piney – A high-profile poaching case involving a large mule deer buck that had been illegally shot in the early winter of 2015 has been settled by the Sublette County Circuit Court with a guilty plea agreement prior to a scheduled jury trial.
On March 29, 2016, Nate Strong of Big Piney, Wyoming, was charged with intentionally taking an antlered mule deer out of season. Strong was formally sentenced on October 25, 2016, in the Sublette County Circuit Court. Strong was ordered to pay over $9,000 in fines and restitution, and will serve 10 days in jail or five days in jail and 50 hours community service. His hunting and fishing privileges were also suspended for seven years.
The case began on February 13, 2016 when Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas was contacted by concerned sportsmen who had observed the mounted deer on display at the Western Hunting and Conservation Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah. When they saw the deer on display, they immediately recognized it as one they had observed and photographed multiple times throughout the summer and fall of 2015 northwest of Pinedale. Several photographs of the large, non-typical buck had been taken after the hunting season had closed on October 7. As members of the public discussed this matter online, the case received significant public attention on social and traditional media.
During the investigation, Warden Hymas and members of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Investigative Unit learned that Strong had harvested the deer on November 14, 2015, west of Big Piney, about five weeks after the mule deer season had closed in that area. Strong, who had already harvested a mule deer in September, used a license valid for white-tailed deer to tag the mule deer, stating he thought the deer was a hybrid between a mule deer and a white-tailed deer.
John Lund, Pinedale Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said, "The concern and assistance from the public is certainly appreciated and this case is a good example of the public and Game and Fish personnel working together to protect Wyoming's wildlife. We often rely on tips and information from the public regarding wildlife violations."
Poachers caught by "Hunting in the Sticks"
Douglas – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently closed a poaching case in Converse County Circuit Court. On March 13, 2017, Ricky J. Mills, 37, and Jimmy G. Duncan, 25 pled no contest to numerous wildlife violations totaling over $30,000 in fines. Mills and Duncan are from Bedford, Kentucky.
The case started with a tip from a concerned Wyoming citizen who watched the two defendants on a hunting show called "Hunting in the Sticks" that aired on national television. In the episode "Western Redemption," Mills and Duncan are seen harvesting two bull elk in Wyoming. The concerned citizen noticed that the area they claimed to have killed their elk, did not match the area of their licenses.
An investigator from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's Investigative Unit and Douglas Game Warden Rod Lebert opened the case and began an exhaustive search for the kill sites north of Douglas in the Cow Creek Buttes and Miller Hills areas. When the first kill site was located, they collected evidence and a solid case was built against the poachers.
"This case could not have been made without the assistance of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources agents," said Mike Ehlebracht, investigative supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish. "Through search warrants and interviews we were able to make a case and both men confessed."
At the conclusion of the investigation, it was determined that in 2014 while deer hunting in Deer Hunt Area 10 in northern Converse County, Mills and Duncan each killed a mature bull elk on private property. Both men also had elk licenses that same year, but the licenses were valid for Elk Hunt Area 51, which is in extreme northwest Wyoming bordering Yellowstone National Park, not for Elk Hunt Area 113 where they shot the elk. Elk Hunt Area 113 is a highly coveted hunt area with very few licenses. In this hunt area, bulls are only allowed to be harvested every other year.
It was also discovered that the two defendants attempted to do the same thing in 2013. Other evidence showed that Duncan harvested an antelope buck in September 2013 without a license. The two were also charged with waste of big game animals in connection with the two illegally harvested elk, along with a small game violation.
Ricky Mills was sentenced to pay $7,460 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for the bull elk he killed, $240 in court costs and lost his hunting privileges for 15 years. Mills will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact which will prevent him from hunting and trapping in 43 participating states.
Jimmy Duncan was sentenced to pay $7,500 in fines, $6,000 in restitution for the bull elk he killed, $4,000 in restitution for the antelope he killed and $240 in court costs. He was also suspended for 15 years from hunting and trapping and will be entered into the Wildlife Violator Compact. The elk mounts from both Duncan and Mills were forfeited to the Game and Fish.
"I believe the two defendants were driven to get kill shot footage for the television show and that resulted in their making bad decisions," added Ehlebracht.
Jimmy Duncan (L) and Bobby Mills (L) posing with their illegal bull elk kills
9V Ranch Investigation and Prosecution Completed
Hanna – After an extended investigation and prosecution in Federal and Wyoming State Courts, the investigation of the 9V Ranch near Hanna and Fort Collins, Colorado resident Karl G. Schakel, age 60, has been completed.
On September 14, 2009, Game Wardens Jason Hunter and Kelly Todd conducted surveillance from adjoining lands on the 9V Ranch north of Hanna. Concerned citizens, over the preceding years provided information that illegal hunts were taking place on the ranch by individuals from Colorado and Texas.Resident licenses were being fraudulently obtained by co-owners of the ranch who resided in Colorado and these licenses were then transferred to their friends and associates in Texas for elk and deer they illegally killed. These illegal rifle hunts would occur behind locked gates on the ranch during archery-only seasons and in a limited quota area on the south side of the Shirley Mountains.
Through their surveillance of the ranch, Wardens Hunter and Todd observed six individuals hunting with rifles for elk and deer over a period of three days and several animals appeared to have been killed.These individuals stayed in the ranch house and a large motor home parked next to the ranch house.Warden Hunter obtained a search warrant from the Circuit Court of Carbon County for the ranch outbuildings.The six individuals had left the ranch the preceding day, but officers found and seized wildlife parts from deer, elk and fish, rifles, ammunition, shell casings, photos, licenses, two 4wheeler ATVs and a Toyota Land Cruiser which were used by the individuals during the illegal hunts.
The Wyoming Game & Fish Forensic Lab conducted DNA analysis and comparison on the wildlife parts collected in the search warrant and identified two bull elk, one unknown elk, three buck mule deer and a doe mule deer as animals illegally killed by the individuals.
Over the next several months, Wardens Hunter, Todd and a wildlife investigator were able to identify five of the individuals suspected of illegally killing deer and elk on the ranch.As these individuals resided in Fort Collins, Colorado and Dalhart, Texas, the Officers contacted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents in Wyoming to assist them in the investigation as the illegally taken deer and elk were transported across state lines in violation of the Federal Lacey Act.
In February 2009, USF&WS Special Agents, along with Wyoming Game and Fish officers travelled to Dalhart, Texas to interview several individuals suspected of participating in the illegal hunts.Warden Hunter, along with Colorado Division of Wildlife Officers and USF&WS Special Agents in Colorado interviewed additional individuals in Fort Collins and Wiggins, Colorado.
Through these interviews, additional information was obtained to secure two Federal search warrants for residences in Dalhart, Texas.A full mounted black bear, photographs, electronic storage devices, firearms and cell phones were seized.From the information provided by the suspects, a taxidermist in Amarillo, Texas was identified as mounting the black bear and shoulder mounts of a bull elk and buck mule deer.Upon contacting the taxidermist, officers obtained work invoices, photos, and the skulls and capes of the elk and deer from Wyoming.The name of the sixth hunter was obtained from the suspects.
A computer disc seized during the search warrant contained 44 photos of a black bear killed on the 9V Ranch in September, 2008.The bear was killed two days prior to when Karl G. Schakel purchased a resident black bear license.
The investigation showed that Karl G. Schakel, a co-owner of the 9V Ranch was fraudulently obtaining resident big game licenses and allowing his friends and associates from Texas to use these licenses to tag illegally killed animals on the 9V Ranch in at least 2008 and 2009.
Bull Elk shot and left...
Pinedale – South Pinedale Game Warden Jordan Kraft is seeking any information regarding a bull elk that was shot and left to waste on the afternoon of Tuesday, October 4, 2016, south of Pinedale. The elk was found just off the Big Sandy Openings Road, just below the turnoff to Sedgewick Meadows. It is believed the suspect partially field dressed the elk and then abandoned it after he learned he was in a limited quota elk area (Hunt Area 99), for which he did not have a valid license. The suspect has been described as approximately 5'10", 240 pounds, with dark hair, driving a blue truck with Sweetwater (4) County license plates.
A bull elk shot and left to waste along the Big Sandy Openings Road on October 4, 2016.
Dogs harass, kill wildlife throughout Laramie Region
Laramie – Warden Jason Sherwood investigated a pronghorn that had been killed by a dog at the east edge of Laramie. The dog's owner stated she had been working with their family Labrador retriever to stop it from chasing wildlife and "thought she was good." While the family walked the dog, off-leash, it chased down a pronghorn fawn and killed it with what appeared to be a single bite to the top of the head before they could do anything about it. Unfortunately, a frequent occurrence this month.
Angler caught in a lie without a license in Medicine Bow
Laramie – Warden Jason Sherwood cited and attended an arraignment for a Nebraska man he and Warden Brinegar had caught fishing without a license in a remote area near Medicine Bow Peak. When contacted, the man lied about having purchased a fishing license just before their backpacking trip, and then leaving it in his car at the trailhead. To top it off, he then gave the warden a false date of birth when he was asked about his identity. After Sherwood phoned into dispatch to (unsuccessfully) verify the license and his identity, the man admitted to the violations and gave his correct identification information. He was charged with fishing without a license and interference with a peace officer. In court, he was very apologetic and pleaded guilty to both counts. He was then fined $220 for fishing without a license and $300 ($150 in fines and court costs and $150 to the victims' compensation fund) for the interference charge.
Reminder to hunters: Baiting big game is illegal
Saratoga –Unethical hunters sometimes resort to illegal methods to increase their chances of harvesting bulls, such as baiting with salt and sweet feed. It is illegal to place bait for big game and knowingly hunt big game animals over bait. Hunters in the Hog Park area of the Sierra Madre Mountains found the elk bait shown above and reported it to Saratoga Game Warden Biff Burton. The blocks of salt and loose minerals were illegally placed by a hunter to lure bull elk to an easy kill. (Photo by Biff Burton)
Picking up fawn results in citation
Elk Mountain – Elk Mountain Game Warden Ryan Kenneda received a tip about an individual who had picked up a pronghorn fawn off the side of the road. Warden Kenneda followed up on the tip and learned that a woman from the eastern part of the country had recently moved to Wyoming and observed the fawn on the side of the road near Rock River. She said she stopped her vehicle and the fawn ran up to her, so she picked it up and put it in her vehicle to take it home. She said there was no evidence that an adult had been hit by a vehicle near the fawn. By the time Kenneda arrived at the woman's residence, she was in the process of building a small outdoor enclosure for the fawn. She had been keeping it in a kennel in her house and the fawn appeared to be in good health. The woman told Warden Kenneda that she was a certified vet technician in her former state and had rehabilitated wildlife when she lived there. She had kept detailed notes on the fawn's food intake, temperature and vitamins it had consumed. Because it is illegal to possess live big game animals in Wyoming, the fawn was confiscated and delivered to the Sybille research facility. It was later transported to Colorado for a research project. The woman was issued a citation and after a failure to appear in court, she paid the citation. Wyoming residents are reminded that they should never pick up injured or orphaned big game animals and instead report them to the Game and Fish Department.
Rabbits darted with blow-guns
Laramie – In two separate incidents, people were shooting cottontail rabbits with a blow-gun in Rock River and Laramie. In the Rock River incident, Game Warden Jordan Winter received a report on young individuals walking around the town of Rock River with a blow- gun shooting cottontails. With assistance from the reporting party, Warden Winter found a lone cottontail still alive with a dart in its hind leg (photo at right) . Laramie Game Warden Kelly Todd assisted Warden Winter in removing the dart from the rabbit. The wardens then spoke with the individuals and resolved the case. In Laramie, Warden Jason Sherwood opened an investigation into a cottontail rabbit that was apparently shot in Laramie by someone using a blow-gun. At this time no suspects have been identified. In both cases, the small game season had not yet opened. The Game and Fish Department reminds sportsmen that while it is not illegal to hunt small game with a blow gun, it may not be an ethical decision to do so. Photos by Jordan Winter and Jason Sherwood.
Funny Looking Owl
Jackson – South Jackson Game Warden Kyle Lash and Alpine Game Warden Jordan Winter followed up on a report of a Jackson resident having a funny looking owl. When asked, the individual readily admitted to having a Eurasian eagle owl they had brought from Texas. The individual was cited for illegal possession of wildlife. The owl was seized and taken care of at the Teton Raptor Center until a new home was found at an educational facility in Alabama, where it could be legally possessed. Warden Lash noted that the individual was very cooperative and even paid for the plane ticket to transport the owl to its new home.
Poaching case closed
Wheatland – A case that began in November 2015 was closed in June. It involved a total of four nonresident individuals in the illegal take of a bull elk on a private ranch in Platte County. The hunter did not possess a 2015 hunting license when the elk was taken. The hunter's father then tagged the elk, and the hunter's mother and step mother assisted with retrieval of the animal. All four individuals were charged with taking an elk without a license or accessory to take an elk without a license, as well as transfer and or accessory to transfer of an elk license. The fines totaled $6,560. All parties pleaded guilty and paid the fines without contest.
Deer taken without a license
Cody – Last month, North Cody Game Warden Travis Crane received a stop poaching report regarding a deer that was observed hanging in a storage shed near a residence in Cody. When Crane followed up on the report, he observed a deer hanging in the shed that appeared to have been there for some time. Crane interviewed the owner of the property, who advised Crane that he had been given the deer last fall and had failed to take care of it. Through additional interviews, it was determined the subject had shot the deer last fall and did not have a deer license. The man was found guilty of taking a deer without a license and fined $790.
Mule Deer Poacher Convicted
Jackson – A Jackson man was recently convicted of charges relating to the illegal shooting and abandoning of a trophy mule deer buck on private land north of Jackson last fall. Travis Gros pled guilty to illegally shooting a mule deer on private land without permission, failure to tag big game and wanton waste of the animal. Teton County Circuit Court Judge James Radda handed down a sentence of $1,320 in fines, loss of hunting privileges for two years and ordered Gros to again complete his hunter safety certification. A 180 day jail sentence was suspended while he serves probation and 60 hours of community service.
On October 7, 2015, North Jackson Game Warden Jon Stephens received a trespass complaint from a landowner near the airport north of Jackson. Warden Stephens responded to the scene and found the large mule deer buck that had been shot and left. When the reporting party provided a description of the individual, it matched that of a hunter Stephens had checked in the area several hours earlier that day. When Warden Stephens confronted Gros about the crime, he admitted to having shot and killed the deer on private land without permission, claiming he had initially wounded the animal on property he did have permission on.
“This is a good example of how a concerned citizen stepping forward with information on a wrongdoing can make a big difference,” said Stephens. Stephens also commended the work of Judge James Radda. “I think the sentence sends a strong message that wildlife is a treasured resource in Teton County and such wildlife crimes will not be tolerated.”
Photos of the illegally taken Mule Deer.
Bull Elk illegally taken in Area 19
Casper – East Casper Game Warden Cody Bish recently closed a case involving two bull elk. These two elk were killed illegally in elk Hunt Area 19. After an investigation matching DNA and ballistics, two individuals were charged with over limit and waste. The bull elk and rifle were seized and forfeited. The individual primarily responsible lost three years of hunting and trapping privileges and had to pay restitution.
Photos of the two bull elk illegally taken.
Photo of the wasted and abandoned bull elk.
From Torrington to Big Piney…
Big Piney – Big Piney Game Warden Adam Hymas investigated a case involving Utah hunters who had traveled to Torrington, WY, to hunt snow geese and then while on a snowmobiling trip north of Big Piney the following week, they decided to dump the snow geese they had shot in the trailhead parking lot. No meat had been taken and all had been wasted. Warden Hymas expressed thanks to a local resident who picked up the geese and a snowmobile helmet that had been left behind. Without the individual’s help, the case may have never have been made.
Youth pheasant hunt
Cody – Game Wardens Travis Crane and Chris Queen participated in a youth hunting event near Cody in February. Many youth hunters participated in the event and were allowed to improve their shooting skills by shooting trap at the Cody Shooting Complex. Later in the afternoon, youth participated in a pheasant hunt put on by the Northwest Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation, Bighorn Basin Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Monster Lake Ranch, and numerous landowners. The Wyoming Game Warden’s Association purchased game bird licenses for those youth hunters that did not currently have one. Each youth was allowed to hunt with a mentor, behind a trained bird dog, and allowed to harvest two pheasants. This event provided many young hunters their first opportunity to participate in a pheasant hunt.
Above: Successful participants in last month’s youth pheasant hunt conducted by Northwest Chapter of the Wild Turkey Federation, Bighorn Basin Chapter of Pheasants Forever, Monster Lake Ranch, and other partners.
Early Antler Hunters
Big Piney – While patrolling the winter range south of Big Piney, warden Hymas observed three individuals from Idaho pick up a deer antler in violation of the shed antler regulation. After contacting the subjects, Hymas found two other antlers in their truck. Citations were issued to Thomas Rich and Dallas Turnbow. Both were required to come back to Wyoming for a court appearance and the Judge fined the subjects $520 and prohibited them from antler hunting in Wyoming until 2018.
Hymas reports a marked increase in public reports of winter range violations or suspected illegal activity regarding the shed antler season. While most of the activity is legal, Hymas is encouraged by the overall support of the public watching out for the wintering wildlife and any illegal activity.
Lichen Toxicosis Likely Cause of Elk Deaths in the Red Desert
Rock Springs – Game Wardens Dave Hays and Andy Roosa responded to a call on March 8th about seven dead elk, east of Steamboat Mountain, in the Great Divide Basin of the Red Desert. After arriving at the scene, the game wardens inspected the elk carcasses, which appear to have died sometime between November and January.
“We also found an abundance of tumbleweed shield lichen in the area which has been found to be toxic to elk when ingested” Roosa said. “Numerous red urine stains in the soil were also noted, an indication that elk had ingested the toxic lichen. Unfortunately, the elk were too heavily scavenged and decomposed to collect any samples which would confirm lichen toxicosis.“
Tumbleweed shield lichen is common in sagebrush habitats across the western U.S. The lichen causes long term and lasting muscle paralysis in affected elk, which appear alert, but are unable to stand. Lichen toxicosis itself is not deadly to elk, rather they likely succumb to predation, dehydration or starvation, as a result of being unable to move. It is unclear why elk eat the lichen. These incidents are sporadic and do not impact the overall elk population.
“This is not the first occurrence of elk deaths from lichen toxicosis in Wyoming,” said Roosa. ”In fact, during the winters of 2004 and 2008 combined, more than 500 elk died from lichen toxicosis in the Red Rim area. While the number of affected elk has not been anywhere near that high this year, Green River Region and Lander Region personnel have responded to a number of reports of paralyzed elk in the Red Desert this winter.”
“A number of these cases were confirmed to be lichen toxicosis by the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory,” Roosa said. ”Some of these cases, including this most recent one, have occurred further east than has been found in the past. Game and Fish personnel do not believe that these deaths are occurring at a level which will have any significant impact on the population of this elk herd.”
“We are asking the public to report any elk carcasses or elk that appear to be sick or unable to stand. Please use caution and do not approach live elk or handle carcasses. Also, it is illegal to pick up shed antlers or horns west of the Continental Divide until May 1. If you do observe any elk carcasses or elk exhibiting abnormal behavior or have any questions, please call the Green River Regional Office at 307-875-3223 or the Stop Poaching Hotline at 1-877-943-3847.”
Photos of one dead bull elk and the tumbleweed shield lichen found in the area near the dead elk.
Four charged in Canada Goose waste case in Goshen Co.
Goshen County – Four Florida men were cited in Goshen County for the waste and abandonment of 11 Canada Geese. The case resulted from a tip from a local ranch hand that witnessed the violation and reported an accurate license plate number and vehicle description to the local game warden. This case, yet again, exemplifies the key role played by the public in the detection of wildlife crimes and apprehension of offenders in the state of Wyoming.
Canada geese from a waste and abandonment case in Goshen County.
Uncontrolled dogs continue to cause problems
Saratoga – Saratoga Game Warden Biff Burton received three complaints of dogs chasing and killing deer in the towns of Saratoga and Encampment. Police departments in those towns assisted in the investigation and prosecution of dog owners who allowed their dogs to run at large and attack big game animals.
North Laramie Game Warden Kelly Todd had reports of a dog chasing antelope in Kiwanis Park. A husky dog caught a young pronghorn, but luckily a man in the park was able to stop the dog before it was able to injure or kill the pronghorn. Albany County animal control cited the owners for dog at large and Warden Todd issued a warning for harassing wildlife. Owners are reminded to maintain control of your dogs at all times; as failure to do so can result in citations and injured wildlife.
An uncontrolled dog accused of chasing deer in Saratoga.
Casper Pronghorn Poaching Update
Casper – A pronghorn antelope poaching case was recently adjudicated from events that occurred in October. A brief vehicle pursuit, multiple interviews, the use of a language interpreter, and collection of both physical and electronic evidence, resulted in seven men being arrested by West Casper Game Warden Daniel Beach. As the investigation grew, Beach was assisted by a team of local game wardens.
Questioning occurred over a period of three days. The suspects led wardens to believe that the four initially confiscated pronghorn antelope were all that were killed, but Beach had a confiscated cell phone video that he felt told a different story. Through the use of an interpreter, Beach was able to hear the suspects give verbal confirmation they had hit and killed the pronghorn, even though the video did not show the shot animal. Game Wardens Beach and Cody Bish used the video to confirm the location of the shooting by identifying local landmarks, and even the patchwork on the road surface. Once they found the exact location of the shooting, they were able to locate the poached pronghorn and bring wanton destruction charges against the suspect.
In total, all suspects were charged with 29 different poaching violations including wanton destruction of big game, take pronghorn without a license, wrong area, wrong sex, fail to tag, shooting from a roadway and taking big game from a motor vehicle. All the suspects eventually plead guilty resulting in $33,365 in fines and restitution, forfeiture of a .30–06 rifle and a combined loss of 32 years of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges.
Photographs of the area in which a buck antelope was wantonly destroyed.
Bald eagle shot
Riverton – South Riverton Game Warden Brad Gibb has started working on a case involving a bald eagle that appears to have been shot. Brad responded to a call in the Riverton area about a sick eagle sitting in corrals, unwilling or unable to fly. Once the eagle was captured it was transferred it to Ironside Bird Rescue, a raptor rehabilitation center in Cody.
X–rays revealed multiple pieces of lead shot in the breast and digestive track (bright white dots in the images below) and blood tests revealed some level of lead poisoning. For a couple weeks, the bird appeared to be getting better, gaining weight and flying, then sadly and unexpectedly he went blind (common side effect of lead poisoning), was unable to stand, and died. Gibb is coordinating with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service special agents and the case is ongoing.
Photo of the Bald Eagle
X-Rays showing the lead shot found in the Bald Eagle
Law Enforcement Efforts Continue along Sheridan County's Northern Border
Dayton – Wyoming Game and Fish Department game wardens from several areas around the state took turns patrolling the northwest part of Sheridan County in January. The increased poaching of big game animals reported in 2015 continued into 2016 as game wardens worked on a case involving an individual who poached a white–tailed deer along the Wyoming/Montana border. Prompt investigative work by wardens lead to a quick identification of the suspect. The suspect was interviewed and also confessed to poaching an additional white–tailed deer. Charges are currently pending against the suspect.
One of two white–tailed deer that were poached along the Wyoming/Montana border in January.
A Wyoming Game Warden collects evidence near the Wyoming/Montana border where one white–tailed deer had been shot and left.
Poaching in Northwest Sheridan County Remained High In 2015
Sheridan – The number of deer and elk illegally killed in northwest Sheridan County continued to increase during 2015, despite efforts by Game and Fish to boost enforcement efforts in the area. Game wardens from Dayton and Sheridan spent an inordinate amount of time investigating reports of poached animals. Game wardens from other parts of Wyoming were brought in to enhance patrols of problem areas.
In an area along the Wyoming–Montana state line, 17 elk (nine bulls and eight cows) and eight deer (two buck mule deer, one doe mule deer, three buck white–tailed deer and two doe white–tailed deer) were illegally killed in 2015. Game wardens were able to make cases on five of the poached elk with four individuals being issued citations resulting in fines of $6,130. The remaining cases are still being investigated.
A white–tailed buck deer shot and the head removed in northern Sheridan County.
A mule deer buck was killed and only its head removed.
Bull elk shot and left along Pass Creek Road in March 2015.
Illegally killed bull elk with head and some meat removed.
Illegally taken mule deer head concealed in Sagebrush
Evanston – Evanston Game Warden Nick Roberts was able to successfully prosecute Evanston resident Bradford Watts on several game violations from the October deer season. Mr. Watts harvested two mule deer bucks on one general license. At least one of the deer was shot from a vehicle and both were on private property he did not have permission to hunt. Mr. Watts attempted to hide the second deer by covering it with a coat and stashing it in the sage brush. Mr. Watts was charged $750 in fines and had his hunting privileges suspended for two years. This case was made possible by a tip from a local hunting guide.
Hunters cited for violations
Medicine Bow – Medicine Bow Game Warden Jake Kettley contacted a hunter who was walking on Bureau of Land Management property adjacent to the Shirley Basin Hunter Management Area. While talking with the hunter Warden Kettley said it became apparent that the man had harvested two elk. However, the man only had one tag. In addition to harvesting his own elk, the man had also shot a calf elk for a friend who couldn't keep up while walking.
Warden Kettley contacted the second man shortly afterwards and that man admitted that he had asked the first hunter to shoot an elk for him. Warden Kettley cited the first man for over limit of big game and the second man was cited for transfer of license. Wyoming hunters are reminded that each licensed hunter must shoot their own game and cannot have someone else fill their tag.
Riverton – Game Warden Jessica Beecham responded to a call about a collared mule deer that was hit by a vehicle near Riverton. She initially thought it could have been one of the mule deer that was recently collared as part of the mule deer migration project in the Dubois and Lander areas. Upon further investigation, Jessica found the deer was wearing a florescent orange dog collar that appeared to be custom made. It was apparent the deer had been kept as a pet, which is illegal in the state of Wyoming. The investigation is ongoing.
Winter Range Shenanigans
Kemmerer – Kemmerer Game Warden Chris Baird spent much of March patrolling winter ranges, investigating reported and discovered violations of antler collection and/or winter range closure violations. Baird responded to a report involving someone entering a winter range closure in a remote area late at night. “The investigation revealed that suspects had used an acetylene torch to cut the lock off of a gate clearly marked with two signs prohibiting motorized travel during the seasonal closure,” Baird said.
“Tracks showed the two suspects had driven into the winter range closure until snowdrifts prohibited further travel, at which point the suspects stopped and built a bonfire in the middle of the road which was left burning well after they had left. I contacted the suspects immediately after they had left the closure and they lied to me about the violation and about one of their identities.”
“The following day I learned the driver of the vehicle was wanted on several charges, including narcotics and stolen property,” Baird said. “Additionally, this suspect was driving on a suspended license and was in violation of probation not only by committing the violations I observed, but also by consuming alcohol and driving a vehicle that was not fitted with a blood alcohol sensor. I coordinated with several agencies to affect the arrest of the suspect driving the vehicle.”
“While attempting to relocate the suspect, I stopped at local café to eat lunch and, while talking to a fellow officer on the phone on how to relocate the suspects, both of them walked into the same café and sat down across from me. I finished my lunch, contacted Kemmerer Police Department, and made the arrest outside of the cafÃ©. In addition to the drivers previously mentioned troubles, both suspects admitted to and were charged by the BLM for violations of the winter range closure, destruction of property, and leaving a campfire unattended.”
“These winter range violations occurred in critical big game winter range where I had recently observed nearly 200 mule deer and around 50 elk wintering within sight of where the suspects had violated the motorized vehicle closure left the fire burning.”