Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

That’s a lot of poachin’!

Share This Article

nrplogoWow.

Eight men from West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle are facing 77 charges of illegal bear hunting. West Virginia Natural Resources Police filed charges against the men after a months-long investigation into their alleged violations. Here are the details, from the Division of Natural Resources’ news release:

ROMNEY, W.Va. – Natural Resources Police Officers have completed an investigation that has resulted in the arrest of eight men on 77 charges of violations of West Virginia game laws involving the illegal hunting of black bears. The investigation began in September 2015 when an illegal bear baiting site near Mount Storm in Grant County was reported to the DNR District 2 office in Romney.
Lead investigators Sgt. G.M. Willenborg and Senior Natural Resources Police Officer A.D. Kuykendall, assisted by natural resources police officers from Mineral, Grant and Pendleton counties, completed the investigation and filed the charges. The alleged illegal bear hunting violations occurred between May 2015 and September 2015. Charges have been brought against the following individuals and are pending in court. The charges identified are allegations and any defendant is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Mark Allen Lampka, Jr. of Mount Storm, West Virginia, was charged with violations ranging from (2 counts) illegal trapping of bear, (4 counts) illegal killing of bear, (6 counts) illegal possession of bear, (2 counts) spotlighting bear, conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code, hunting without permission, hunting bear during closed season and other game law violations. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Daniel Boddy of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with (2 counts) illegal killing of bear, (2 counts) illegal trapping of bear, (4 counts) illegal possession of bear, spotlighting bear, conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code and other game law violations. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Chad Fridley of Mount Storm, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, (2 counts) illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Steve Thomas Lyons, Jr. of Elk Garden, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, hunting bear with use of bait, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant and Mineral counties.
Dustin Knaggs of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with illegal killing of bear, spotlighting bear, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.
Terry Kuh of Maysville, West Virginia, was charged with spotlighting bear, hunting bear with use of bait, illegal possession of bear, illegal taking of bear during closed season and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Grant County.
James Scott Kuhn of New Creek, West Virginia, was charged with hunting bear with the use of a trap, illegal possession of bear, and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.
Ronnie P. Bothwell of Burlington, West Virginia, was charged with hunting bear with the use of a trap, illegal possession of bear and conspiring to violate Chapter 20 of the West Virginia State Code. These charges were brought in Mineral County.

 

 

Who killed 13 bald eagles in Maryland?

Share This Article
Photo by Officer First Class Robert Karge/Maryland Natural Resources Police via AP)
Photo by Officer First Class Robert Karge/Maryland Natural Resources Police via AP

Perhaps in an effort to avoid spooking the killers, investigators are staying mum about what killed 13 bald eagles on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. All they will say is that the birds didn’t die naturally. From the Associated Press:

Federal wildlife officials say 13 bald eagles found dead on Maryland’s Eastern Shore did not die of natural causes.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service spokeswoman Catherine J. Hibbard said in a statement Thursday that necropsy results of the eagles discovered in Federalsburg on Feb. 20 ruled out disease, leading investigators to now focus on finding those who were responsible for the deaths.
Hibbard says eliminating the possibility of diseases such as bird flu is important because the area has numerous poultry farms and migratory birds.
She declined to release further details about how investigators believe the birds might have died.
A $25,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Trying to enforce the (almost) unenforceable

Share This Article
(Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia) Would a Washington initiative really protect this elephant?
(Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia)
Would a Washington initiative really protect this elephant?

The problem of ivory poaching should concern everyone, but not everyone is in a position to do anything about it.

My friend Rich Landers of the Spokane Spokesman-Review recently commented on a voter initiative in Washington state that, if successful, would impose some pretty draconian demands on both the public and the state’s fish and wildlife cops.

Poachers sought in elephant poisonings

Share This Article
African bush elephant (Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia)
African bush elephant (Muhammad Mahdi Karim/Wikimedia)

Ugh. From Zimbabwe comes news that more than 80 elephants have been slaughtered, indiscriminately poisoned by poachers.

From the Associated Press:

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Authorities in Zimbabwe said Tuesday that more than 80 elephants have died from cyanide poisoning in the country’s biggest national park over the past four weeks.
“The situation is getting bad, as the poison might have been taken by many other animals — not only elephants,” said Environment Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, after touring Hwange National Park — Africa’s third largest wildlife sanctuary.
Last month the authorities reported they had arrested six poachers who had poisoned elephants with cyanide in the national park, which is roughly the size of Switzerland and is located about 50 miles southwest of Harare.
Kasukuwere has pledged stricter jail sentences for poachers.

 

 

It’s a standing joke in the outdoors community that President Barack Obama has become the greatest firearm salesman in history.

The latest FBI background-check figures appear to support that argument. Since Obama has been in office, the National Instant Background Check System has processed 70,291,049 background checks. That’s almost double the number for a comparable period in former president George W. Bush’s term.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

Photo courtesy Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife

Washington state wildlife police have gotten their first chance to sock it to poachers who not only kill game illegally, but also do it while trespassing on other people’s private property. A new law made it possible.

From the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police Facebook page:

Anyone who hunts knows that respecting private property is essential to continued access and preservation of a prescious resource and heritage. Prior to legislation passing last session, Fish and Wildlife Police Officers could makes arrests when trespass occurred, but because trespass wasn’t a ‘wildlife crime,’ they couldn’t seize the ill-gotten gains.
Well, some folks thought the risk was worth the reward if they got to keep the animal at the end of the day. And this seemed particularly true when trophy class animals were involved. For a $250 slap on the wrist, you could still brag about the wall hanger you harvested.
This was the case with a couple of men who repeatedly trespassed to kill trophy bull elk in East Pierce County. However, these two men will now be among the first to be prosecuted under the new ‘Hunting While Trespass’ law. They had cheated successfully before, but this time they weren’t so lucky. And perhaps their fate can help others decide whether the risk is still worth the reward.
The two subjects took one 5×5 and one 5×7 bull after setting up camp nine miles into private property (closed to hunting) during the archery elk season. It was no accident that Officers Leonetti, Summit, Langbehn, Prater, and Hillman were there when the two men tried to sneak portions of the first bull out at 1:15am. Nine days later, the Officers were back when the subjects took portions of the second bull out at 2:00am.
The two were arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on multiple counts of trespassing while hunting, criminal trespassing and wastage. A vehicle and two motorcycles were seized, along with all of their hunting gear and camping equipment. A search warrant was then served at the residence of one of the subjects. The antlers and portions of the first elk were recovered, along with two unlawfully possessed raptors that were found in the freezer.
For all of the true hunters who respect private property and understand the much bigger picture, this arrest is for you! For those who just don’t get it, here is what you potentially face if you ignore the new ‘Hunt While Trespass’ law: A penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.  In addition, upon conviction, the Department will revoke your hunting licenses and suspend your hunting privileges for two years. Any animal harvested or retrieved in violation of the section will be forfeited to WDFW.

 

WCO David Grove (PGC photo)

It took an Adams County, Pa., jury just four hours to sentence 29-year-old Christopher Johnson to death by lethal injection for killing Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove.

Gvove, 31, was killed in an apparent shootout as he tried to arrest Johnson for poaching. Reports at the time of Grove’s death said he had West Virginia ties — he attended college at Appalachian Bible College near Beckley.

The Lebanon, Pa., Daily News has the sentencing story.

 

Game warden faces possible prison

Share This Article
Ready for sentencing

I thought conservation officers were supposed to catch lawbreakers, not be  lawbreakers. From the Associated Press:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A federal judge on Monday is scheduled to sentence a former Ohio wildlife officer convicted of helping a South Carolina hunter illegally obtain an Ohio deer license at a discount that saved him about $105.
Allan Wright was also convicted of seizing the antlers of two deer taken illegally and giving the antlers to a friend instead of securing them as crime evidence.
Prosecutors are seeking three months in prison, a year of supervised release and a $1,000 fine, while Wright is asking for probation and a reasonable fine.
Government prosecutors argue the case involves a pattern of criminal conduct and that Wright’s actions jeopardized the honor system that is the backbone of state hunting and fishing programs.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources fired Wright in October.
Charges filed

Forest ranger James Schoeffler ought to get a medal or something. Certainly hikers in Utah owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Chances are his actions saved at least one hiker from death or serious injury.

Schoeffler, a former military man, knew enough about booby traps to recognize them when he found them. And when he found booby traps at a trail shelter on a popular recreational trail, he took immediate action. And now the two men accused of setting the traps are facing harsh justice. Good.

From the Associated Press:

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Two Utah men accused of setting potentially deadly booby traps along a popular hiking trail have been charged with felony aggravated assault.
Benjamin Rutkowski, 19, of Orem, and Kai Christensen, 21, of Provo, await a June 13 court appearance after being charged with the third-degree felony in 4th District Court this week, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.
They were arrested April 21 on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.
According to court documents, the men built two traps around a well-known, makeshift shelter along the Big Springs trail in Provo Canyon, located about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.
One was rigged to a trip wire to send a 20-pound, spiked boulder swinging at head level of an unsuspecting hiker, while the other was designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes.
U.S. Forest Service Officer James Schoeffler, who discovered the traps while on a routine patrol of the area, said the traps could have caused significant or lethal injuries, court documents state. Schoeffler spent 12 years in the military as a bomb disposal technician dismantling deadly devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police have said it was fortunate that Schoeffler was the first to discover the traps, given his military training.
According to the charging documents, both men admitted making the traps but said they were intended for wildlife such as wild boar and bunnies, not people.
There are no listed phone numbers for the men. Phone calls went unanswered Saturday to Rutkowski’s father, Steven, who previously declined comment. Christensen’s mother, Sharon, didn’t immediately return a phone call. It wasn’t clear if either suspect had an attorney.
A third-degree felony carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Follow this link to the Tampa Bay Times’ story about a Florida deer hunter who shot an endangered Florida panther because he didn’t want the cat to interfere with his hunting.

Todd Benfield, 45, of Naples, pleaded guilty to the crime and said he’s sorry to have cast hunters in such a negative light.

It remains to be seen whether Benfield will serve any jail time for the illegal killing. In previous panther-killing cases, judges have levied fines but have been reluctant to issue jail sentences.