Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Game warden rescues trapped coonhound

Sometimes conservation officers are called upon to do rather … unusual things.

From the Associated Press:

PARIS, Ind. — A hunting dog that spent more than a day trapped underground after falling into a southeastern Indiana sinkhole was rescued early Sunday by a state conservation officer.
Indiana Conservation Officer Zach Walker was smeared with mud after he rescued the unharmed coonhound, MoMo, about 1 a.m. Sunday from the Jennings County cave.
Walker said he carried MoMo part of the way up a ladder he had used to reach the cave’s floor, and the dog was raised the rest of the way via rope and reunited with his owner.
“He was really excited to be back aboveground,” Walker said Sunday.
The coonhound went missing about 9 p.m. Friday during a raccoon hunt near the town of Paris about 35 miles north of Louisville, Ky. Walker said MoMo may have fallen about 20 feet into one of the cave’s numerous sinkhole openings.
The dog’s owner and two other raccoon hunters searched throughout Friday night for MoMo and returned to the area again Saturday. They finally called police after finding the trapped, barking dog late Saturday night, and realizing they wouldn’t be able to free the hound.
When Walker arrived, he lowered a ladder through a narrow opening and carefully entered the cave.
“If I weighed five more pounds, I wouldn’t have been able to fit through that hole. It was like fitting a key through a hole,” he said.
At the bottom, Walker found the excited dog in a cave room that was about 30 yards long and lined with a layer of mud.
Because the hole was too narrow to bring the dog up in a cage, Walker carried the hound up the ladder part of the way.
“His owner asked how much he owed me and I said he’d already paid for my services with his tax money,” Walker said.

A little perspective on Nugent’s conviction

The gavel drops

As expected, Ted Nugent pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor federal charge earlier this week.

What’s interesting is that the judge — who lives in the same part of Alaska where Nugent broke the law — said he had never before heard of the law Nugent broke.

The law, in effect only in southeastern Alaska, states that if a hunter wounds an animal and loses it, the hunter’s tag is considered filled. Nugent wounded and lost a bear while hunting on an island off the Alaska coast. He then hunted and killed a second bear.

It’s also interesting that Alaska wildlife officials never charged Nugent with any crime. The charges came from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who charged the 62-year-old rocker with a misdemeanor violation of the Lacey Act because he transported an illegally killed animal across state lines.

The Associated Press has the full story:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rocker and gun rights advocate Ted Nugent pleaded guilty Tuesday to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in Alaska, saying he was sorry for unwittingly violating the law.
“I would never knowingly break any game laws,” Nugent told the court. “I’m afraid I was blindsided by this, and I sincerely apologize to everyone for this.”
With his plea, the singer and avid hunter followed through with a signed agreement he made with federal prosecutors earlier this month.
Magistrate Judge Michael Thompson accepted the deal at a U.S. District Court hearing in Ketchikan. Nugent and his attorney participated by telephone.
Asked by Thompson if the agreement was clear, Nugent responded: “It is with me, your honor.”
According to the document, Nugent illegally shot and killed the bear in May 2009 on Sukkwan Island in southeast Alaska after wounding another bear in a bow hunt. The bow incident counted toward a seasonal limit of one bear in that location. Nugent and his lawyer, Wayne Anthony Ross, said neither of them knew about that law.
The judge said he wasn’t aware of the “sort of one-strike policy” either.
“It probably is not widely known, and if there is a side benefit to the agreement reached here today — since apparently newspapers are interested in Mr. Nugent and his doings — this probably will serve to alert a great many hunters to that very issue and may, in fact, prevent violations in the future and court activity for a whole slew of folks.”
The plea agreement says Nugent knowingly possessed and transported the bear in misdemeanor violation of the federal Lacey Act.
Ross said after the hearing that he was unaware of any state charges pending. A database search found no state charges against Nugent.
“It seems to me that would be double dipping,” Ross said.
The hunt was filmed for Nugent’s Outdoor Channel television show “Spirit of the Wild,” according to the plea deal.
Under the agreement, Nugent must pay a $10,000 fine and serve two years of probation, including a special condition that he not hunt or fish in Alaska or on U.S. Forest Service properties for a year. Nugent used a number of bear-baiting sites on Forest Service land during the Alaska hunt, the document said.
He also must create a public service announcement that will be broadcast on his show every second week for a year after approval by a representative of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Nugent told the court he wanted to make numerous PSAs to keep the interest level up, “so it’s not just the same statement.” Thompson said that would be fine, as long as the PSAs were approved before airing.
The musician famed for his 1977 hit “Cat Scratch Fever” also must pay the state $600 for the bear that was taken illegally.
Nugent briefly drew the attention of the Secret Service last week after he rallied support for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and said of the Obama administration: “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.”
His comments were made during a National Rifle Association meeting in St. Louis.
As a hunter, Nugent has run afoul of the law before.
In August 2010, California revoked Nugent’s deer hunting license after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of deer-baiting and not having a properly signed tag.
Nugent’s loss of that deer hunting license through June allows 34 other states to revoke the same privilege under the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Each state, however, can interpret and enforce the agreement differently.
Know the laws, Ted

Once again, bowhunter Ted Nugent has run afoul of the law because he and his television show staff failed to familiarize themselves with the law of the land. This time the oversight will result in a misdemeanor conviction in federal court.

From the Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Rocker and wildlife hunter Ted Nugent has agreed to plead guilty to transporting a black bear he illegally killed in southeast Alaska.
Nugent made the admission in signing a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that was filed Friday in U.S. District Court.
Calls seeking comment from Nugent, his Anchorage attorney, Wayne Anthony Ross, and assistant U.S. Attorney Jack Schmidt were not immediately returned.
The plea agreement says Nugent illegally shot and killed the bear in May 2009 on Sukkwan Island days after wounding a bear in a bow hunt, which counted toward a state seasonal limit of one bear.
According to the agreement, first reported by the Anchorage Daily News, the six-day hunt was filmed for his Outdoor Channel television show, “Spirit of the Wild.” In the hunt, Nugent used a number of bear-baiting sites on U.S. Forest Service property, according to the agreement.
The document says Nugent knowingly possessed and transported the bear in misdemeanor violation of the federal Lacey Act.
Nugent, identified in the agreement as Theodore A. Nugent, agreed to pay a $10,000 fine, according to the agreement, which says he also agreed with a two-year probation, including a special condition that he not hunt or fish in Alaska or Forest Service properties for one year. He also agreed to create a public service announcement that would be broadcast on his show every second week for one year, the document states.
“This PSA will discuss the importance of a hunter’s responsibility in knowing the rules and regulations of the hunting activities that they engage in, which is subject to the review and final approval, prior to any broadcast, by a representative of the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Alaska,” the agreement says.
Nugent, who signed the document April 14, also agreed to pay the state $600 for the bear that was taken illegally, according to the agreement. He would still need to enter the plea in court and have the plea be approved by a judge.
Nugent — a conservative activist famed for his 1977 hit “Cat Scratch Fever” — drew the attention of the Secret Service after he rallied support last weekend for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and said of the Obama administration: “We need to ride into that battlefield and chop their heads off in November.” His comments were made during a National Rifle Association meeting in St. Louis.
Nugent said on his website Thursday that he discussed the matter with two agents on Thursday while in Oklahoma.
“The meeting could not have gone better,” he said. “I thanked them for their service, we shook hands and went about our business. God bless the good federal agents wherever they may be.”
Nugent said he was just speaking figuratively and that he didn’t threaten anyone’s life or advocate violence.
“Metaphors needn’t be explained to educated people,” he said.
A Secret Service spokesman has said the issue has been resolved.
With hunting, Nugent has run afoul of the law before.
In August 2010, California revoked Nugent’s deer hunting license after he pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of deer-baiting and not having a properly signed tag.
Nugent’s loss of that deer hunting license through June 2012 allows 34 other states to revoke the same privilege under the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Each state, however, can interpret and enforce the agreement differently.

Moral of story: If you’re a felon, you probably shouldn’t be doing public gunfight reenactments.

From the Associated Press:

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — An Old West gun battle re-enactor who wounded three onlookers when he fired live rounds instead of blanks at a South Dakota show was sentenced Monday to seven and a half years in prison.
Paul Doering, 49, of Summerset made a deal with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a tampering charge in January. In exchange, prosecutors dropped the original charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He had faced up to 20 years in prison for the tampering charge.
Doering and other re-enactors were supposed to feign a shootout by firing blanks during the June 17 mock Old West battle in Hill City. Investigators said Doering somehow ended up firing live ammunition.
The bullets shattered a leg bone of Carrol Knutson, 65, of Minnesota; hit the forearm and elbow of John Ellis, 48, of Pennsylvania; and caused minor injuries to Jose Pruneda, 53, of Nebraska.
Federal public defender Neil Fulton, who represented Doering, had said the shooting was an accident and that Doering was sorry.
Doering wasn’t supposed to have firearms because he has previously been convicted of a felony. He had served several prison stints on assault, burglary and escape charges.
Federal law prevents felons convicted of crimes punishable by more than one year in prison from possessing any firearm or ammunition unless the person has had their civil rights restored by the state where they were convicted. Doering’s convictions were in Minnesota.
Fulton said that after the shootout, Doering hid the weapons and ammunition, resulting in the tampering charge.
The mock shootouts between lawmen and outlaws have been held for decades in the rural town near the Black Hills. The event is sponsored by the Hill City Chamber of Commerce.
The Dakota Wild Bunch had been performing the show for about four years. The show has since been suspended.

Man faces felony charges for deer poaching

As far as poaching is concerned, it’s three strikes and a felony in Wyoming. A 19-year-old man has become the first person charged under a new state law that makes repeat poaching a felony.

Colton Lapp of Worland, Wyo., twice convicted of poaching, faces felony charges after being arrested for poaching four mule deer. If convicted, he could face more than 12 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.

The Casper Tribune has the full story.

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

Something to make your head explode

My goodness.

It was bad enough that someone torched a 3,500-year-old cypress tree in Florida. It’s even worse to find out why the fire got started.

Authorities allege that 26-year-old Sara Barnes, a resident of Seminole County, Fla., set the fire so she could better see the methamphetamine she was preparing to use.

Slow, deep breaths. Control that blood pressure. Think “calm.”

The Orlando Sentinel has the full story.

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

Feds bust alleged rhino-horn traffickers

Too valuable for their own good

Ever wonder why rhinos are so rare? Here’s a major reason:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal wildlife investigators have broken up an international smuggling ring that trafficked in sawed-off rhinoceros horns for buyers in Vietnam and China who believe they cure cancer, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.
More than 150 federal agents led raids into homes and businesses in several states over the weekend, according to the Times.
Three of the alleged traffickers caught in Southern California were 49-year-old Jimmy Kha, his 41-year-old girlfriend Mai Nguyen and Kha’s 26-year-old son Felix. Each faces four counts of rhino horn trafficking in violation of federal laws protecting rare and endangered species.
“By taking out this ring of rhino horn traffickers, we have shut down a major source of black market horn and dealt a serious blow to rhino horn smuggling both in the U.S. and globally,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe told the Times.
More than $1 million in cash, $1 million in gold bars, diamonds and Rolex watches, along with 20 rhino horns, were seized in the raids.
Most of the horns end up in Vietnam, or sometimes China, where there’s a misconception that they can cure cancer, said Crawford Allan, North American director of TRAFFIC, a World Wildlife Fund program that monitors wildlife trade.
The wildlife service did not immediately respond to an email request for comment sent late Wednesday by The Associated Press.
The arrests and seizures resulted from an 18-month investigation, said Edward Grace, deputy chief of law enforcement for the wildlife service.
The undercover operation was forced into the open when accused trafficker Wade Steffen of Hico, Texas, and his wife and mother were found with $337,000 in their luggage at a Long Beach airport, authorities said.
During their investigation, wildlife officials said they intercepted at least 18 shipments of rhino horns from the Steffen family and the owner of a Missouri auction house that trades in live and stuffed exotic animals, according to court records. Steffen was jailed in Texas; his wife and mother weren’t arrested.

Man pleads guilty to eagle killings

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo

A recent post told how a Maine man had been sentenced to a year in jail for killing a single bald eagle. Imagine, then, what a Montana man might get for killing several bald and golden eagles. From the Associated Press:

HARDIN, Mont. (AP) — A 71-year-old Hardin man has acknowledged killing bald and golden eagles and selling their parts.
The Billings Gazette reports William Esley Hugs pleaded guilty Thursday in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to traffic in eagles and migratory birds. A plea agreement calls for five other charges to be dismissed when he is sentenced on May 17.
Hugs and at least five others, including his son and his brother, were charged last summer after a tip led to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service investigation.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Steger Smith says FWS worked with an informant to buy eagle feathers, bird parts and whole eagle carcasses from Hugs from about December 2010 until February 2011.
Bald and golden eagles are protected by federal law.

Come to think of it, Hugs probably won’t get a severe sentence. He’s 71 years old, and courts tend to take it easy on old-timers.

Father, son face poaching charges

A father-son case

Poaching is bad. Involving your kids in poaching seems infinitely worse.

Authorities say an Oregon man did just that. Charles Douglas Cochran, 38, of Eagle Point, Ore., has been arrested and charged with the illegal killing of six trophy black-tailed bucks. Cochran’s 16-year-old son faces similar charges in juvenile court.

A judge set Cochran’s bail at $24,000. My friend Mark Freeman has the details here, in the Medford Mail Tribune.

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

Man gets year in prison for killing eagle

If you do the crime, you do the time…

From the Associated Press:

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A Maine man who fatally shot a protected bald eagle while he was barred from having a gun or a hunting license has been sentenced to a year in prison.
A federal judge in Bangor on Monday also sentenced 51-year-old Stephen Voisine to two years of probation and ordered him to undergo mental health and substance abuse treatment.
Authorities started investigating after getting an anonymous tip in November 2009 and finding the bird near a logging road in Kingman in eastern Maine.
Voisine told investigators he thought the eagle was a large hawk.
The Bangor Daily News reports that Voisine’s lawyer asked that his client be spared prison time because of mental health and medical conditions.
Voisine was barred from possessing guns or a hunting license because of prior convictions.