Game Warden Chronicles: Angler Busted for Muskie; Black Bear Poacher Gets $1,200 Fine

Poachers beware, whether it's for muskellunge or black bear! The latest game warden chronicles spans several states with reports on illegal activity.

Game Warden Chronicles: Angler Busted for Muskie; Black Bear Poacher Gets $1,200 Fine

Vermont officials fined an ice fisherman for illegally harvesting a muskellunge (second from left) on Lake Champlain, where the species is protected from harvest as part of restoration efforts. (Photo: Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department)

Ever hear about a crazy arrest by game wardens and wonder why someone did what they did?

Game warden reports from state conservation departments always are a source for a few laughs and head-scratching moments. Take a look at some of these selections from around the country.

Mistaken Muskie?

A Vermont angler was charged Feb. 10 with illegal harvest of a muskellunge caught in Lake Champlain.

Vermont State Game Wardens did not identify the angler, who was investigated after social media photos showed the muskie along with several northern pike. The angler told a game warden he took the fish home despite not knowing what it was.

According to the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department, anglers may legally target and catch muskellunge but only on a catch-and-release basis. Harvest of the species is prohibited due to restoration efforts in Lake Champlain.

Department fisheries biologist Shawn Good, who heads the state’s pike and muskellunge management program, said the illegal harvest of this and other muskie can harm restoration efforts.

“This muskie, which was 34 inches in length, is likely seven years old – one of 7,500 fish stocked into the Missisquoi River in 2013 as 5-inch fingerlings," Good said. "It’s beaten the odds, managing to avoid being eaten by bass, bowfin and other predators when it was young, and it has survived, grown and reached maturity.”

Good says large, spawning-aged individuals are highly valuable to the success of the muskellunge restoration program.

“Fishing regulations exist for a purpose, and in this case, the no-harvest rule is designed to protect stocked muskie as they grow, reach maturity and hopefully spawn themselves — contributing to the development of a self-sustaining population. This muskie would have likely deposited around 150,000 eggs this spring.”

Head Games in Texas

In Texas, Harris County game wardens were called to assist the Houston Police Department with a traffic stop involving a vehicle that had multiple untagged animal heads. After speaking with the occupants, the wardens discovered the two people in the vehicle were from Louisiana and had been working in El Paso County with another individual who had already returned to Louisiana.

In their spare time, two of the subjects decided to go on a Texas safari and shot an elk, gemsbok and an untagged 8-point whitetail buck that they were transporting home. The driver claimed the animals were shot legally on public land.

However, a follow-up with the landowner in El Paso County confirmed the suspects had been hunting on private land without landowner consent. One of the occupants had no hunting license, and it was discovered a .22 caliber rimfire round was used to kill all the animals and the meat had gone to waste. It is illegal to hunt a whitetail buck with rimfire ammunition. The driver shot the buck and cut off its head.

Working quickly with an El Paso County game warden, the animals and rifle were seized as evidence in anticipation of felony and multiple Class A and C charges being filed against the suspects.

Black Bear Poacher Fined $1,200

A Pennsylvania man was fined $1,200 for killing what was described as the largest black bear in York County, which is last in the state's rankings of annual harvest due to low population.

Gregory Myers, 67, of Newberry Township, was found guilty February 5 in district court. He was ordered to pay the fine along with $117 in court costs but avoided a $5,000 penalty requested by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as restoration. District Judge Richard Thomas found Myers not guilty of a second charge of resisting or interfering with the commission’s investigation into the incident, according to pennLive.com.

Myers shot the bear with a crossbow Nov. 12, 2018, two days after the state bow season for bears had ended. Officials said the bear weighed 480 pounds dressed, and was estimated at 560 pounds alive. 

The report said Myers could lose his hunting license, according to State Game Warden Amy Nabozny. The bear's skull and preserved hide were confiscated by state game officials to be used in education efforts in York County. 

Only five black bears were killed in York County during the last two hunting seasons, according to state records.

Myers disagreed with the judge's ruling according to the York Daily Record.

“I don’t think it’s fair or just,” said Myers, who has hunted for 55 years. “Justice was not reached that day.” 

Game Commission warden Scott Brookens said Myers admitted knowing the season dates, though.

“In past years, they (deer and bear seasons) have lined up,” Brookens said, “but they are different seasons. Every year, they could be different. Mr. Myers was asked if he was aware that seasons and bag limits could change every year. He was aware of that case.”

Penalties for State Park Pigs

In Florida, Marion County Officer Specialist Rice was on patrol when he observed two vehicles parked near Silver Springs State Park. He recently received information about illegal hog hunting on park property. Both vehicles contained empty dog kennels in the truck beds.

Officer Rice contacted Officer Specialist Dias to assist. They heard a single gunshot originate from within the state park and observed five subjects exit the park by crossing over the boundary fence. As the subjects cleared the wood line, the officers could see they were dressed in camouflage clothing, possessed several hunting dogs wearing GPS tracking collars, and one subject had a revolver handgun.

The subjects admitted to having been inside the state park looking for hogs. They were charged appropriately.

California Whitetail Poacher Fined $17,500

From the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

A Granite Bay man has been convicted of poaching a trophy class deer with the use of bait, and will pay an enhanced penalty. A tenacious investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and prosecution by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office made the conviction possible.

Wildlife officers conducting surveillance over the course of the 2018 deer hunting season observed archery hunter Myron Barry Woltering, 66, repeatedly adding food to a bait pile on a property he owns in Pilot Hill, El Dorado County. Woltering was unlawfully using alfalfa, corn, other grains and salt licks for the purpose of attracting deer. Using a combination of surveillance, a review of mandatory hunting report records and search warrants served at Woltering’s home, business and the property where the baiting took place, wildlife officers were able to prove that Woltering had poached a very large trophy class 6×4 buck over the bait.

On February 21, 2020, Woltering pled no contest in El Dorado Superior Court to one misdemeanor count of taking deer over bait. Because the buck was of “trophy” size, the penalties for the crime were enhanced. Woltering will serve three years’ probation, during which time he will be prohibited from hunting. He stipulated to the forfeiture of all seized items and paid a fine of $17,500.

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