Game Warden Chronicles: Lifetime Suspension, Too Many Fish and a Bathtub Alligator

The latest game warden chronicles involve a lifetime suspension due to poaching, anglers busted for too many fish and an alligator in a bathtub.

Game Warden Chronicles: Lifetime Suspension, Too Many Fish and a Bathtub Alligator

Michigan DNR game wardens following investigation into extensive waterfowl poaching that yielded multiple arrests. (Photo: Michigan DNR)

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.

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

A Colorado Parks and Wildlife investigation into illegal hunting and trapping activities led to a felony conviction of a Park County man thanks to the persistence of wildlife officers.

Jeff Bodnar, 46, of Hartsel, Col., was arrested and charged with 22 crimes stemming from the investigation. Bodnar pleaded guilty May 7 to possession of a weapon by a previous offender, a class 6 felony, and unlawful possession of two black bears and a mountain lion.

Bodnar was fined $4,593.50 and sentenced to 10 days in jail, which has been suspended pending successful completion of probation.

At its June meeting, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission approved a lifetime suspension of Bodnar's hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in Colorado and the other 48 states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. With the lifetime suspension, he would face fines ranging between $1,000-10,000 and up to 90 days in jail if he is detected in any hunting, fishing or trapping activity in the future.

Bodnar's hunting, fishing and trapping privileges have been suspended twice previously.

"Mr. Bodnar appears to possess a complete disregard for Colorado's hunting laws and a total indifference for wildlife," said wildlife officer Ian Petkash. "We take these investigations seriously because of the toll someone like this can take on local wildlife populations. The illegal exploitation of wildlife will not be tolerated and we will continue to aggressively investigate wildlife crimes in this state. It is important to note that these type of actions are those of a poacher, not a hunter, and it is good to bring somebody like this to justice."

Wildlife officers have investigated reports of illegal hunting and trapping activity by Bodnar for years. In 2008, he was convicted in federal court of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal felony for attempting to sell illegally taken bobcats across state lines. He received 27 months in federal prison for the 2008 case.

The most recent investigation broke in 2014 when a report was received that Bodnar had resumed hunting and trapping while under his suspension. Wildlife officers initiated a multi-year investigation that culminated in the execution of arrest and search warrants.

Poaching Mule Deer Gets Cowboy State Punishment

From the Jackson Hole (Wyo.) Daily:

A Wyoming man has lost his hunting privileges for 20 years and fishing privileges for 10 after being convicted of poaching, after he was caught shooting four mule deer, cutting off their antlers and leaving the carcasses.

Thayne resident Stetson Long, who was 19 at the time of the crime last November, was sentenced to six months of jail time at the Lincoln County Detention Center after pleading guilty in July. He was ordered to pay the Wyoming Game and Fish Department $16,000 in restitution, and was stripped of his hunting privileges for 20 years and fishing privileges for 10 years.

“He violated the law when his hunting privileges were already suspended,” game warden Neil Hymas told the Daily, “and he repeatedly took wildlife away from other sportsmen in the state.”

Hymas said Long’s hunting privileges had been revoked in 2016 from having killed a deer without a license and another in excess of the limit.

Read the rest of the story here in the Daily.

Wanton Waste Sentence: Dozen Years

From Colorado Parks and Wildlife:

Colorado Parks and Wildlife has suspended a South Dakota poacher's hunting and fishing privileges for 12 years following the defendant's conviction for wasting the meat of a black bear he killed during the 2017 hunting season near Steamboat Springs.

A CPW Hearing Officer meted out the suspension to Robert Stalley, 58, of Pierre, S.D., on June 25 after considering the behavior of the defendant, including his attempts to evade and mislead CPW investigators. In one instance, officers say Stalley presented a bag filled with the meat of a legally taken deer during the required inspection of the bear's hide, likely in an attempt to deceive the CPW inspector.

Stalley possessed valid deer and bear licenses at the time of the violations.

"During my interview with Mr. Stalley at his South Dakota home, he stated that he did take bear meat from the backstraps and hindquarters and that he ate some and gave some away; however, our investigation proved otherwise," said Wildlife Officer Jack Taylor of Steamboat Springs. "In addition, Mr. Stalley took deer meat from the same location that the bear was harvested but chose to leave all of the bear meat behind, removing only the head and hide."

In July 2018, Stalley pleaded guilty in Routt County court to three misdemeanors; failing to care for the edible portions of the bear, illegal take, and illegal possession of the bear. In an agreement with prosecutors, Stalley also received a 1-year deferred sentence on a felony charge for the intentional take and abandonment of wildlife. Stalley paid a fine of $3,415 in addition to serving a one-year term of court ordered unsupervised probation and forfeiture of his rifle. His violations resulted in 50 suspension points.

Taylor said he learned about the bear's carcass after receiving a tip from an anonymous source through Operation Game Thief, Colorado's wildlife tip line.

"The witnesses gave me the information I needed to begin the investigation, and for that we are very grateful to those individuals," said Taylor. "It gives us great satisfaction that we have put another poacher out of business, but it's likely we could not have done it without the help of the hunters that brought it to our attention. It's a good thing that most hunters are ethical and conscientious."

Stalley has the option of appealing his suspension before the CPW Commission. If upheld, he cannot hunt in Colorado and 47 additional Wildlife Violator Compact states for the duration of the suspension.

Their Goose? Cooked!

From Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

Eight men from Macomb, Oakland and St. Clair counties in Michigan were arraigned in the 42nd District Court in New Baltimore on poaching charges stemming from Michigan’s 2018 waterfowl season.

The group collectively was ordered to pay fines of more than $18,500 in reimbursement for species protection and other court costs. Those arraigned were:

  • Joseph Fettue, 60, of Chesterfield.
  • Ronald Perreman, 55, of Clinton Township.
  • Geoffrey Regulski, 58, of Roseville.
  • Giovanni Salvatore, 54, of Oakland.
  • Jeffrey Soulliere, 58, of Harrison Township.
  • Mark Soulliere, 55, of Chesterfield.
  • Michael Soulliere, 22, of St. Clair Shores.
  • Ryan Stateler, 24, of Roseville.

The men pleaded guilty to taking an over limit of geese and failure to retrieve game. Each was ordered to pay $2,312.50 in reimbursement for the illegally harvested birds, in addition to court costs and fines.

Read the rest of the report from the Michigan DNR.

Rub-A-Dub-Dub: Gator in the Tub?

This trio of reports comes from Texas Parks & Wildlife Department:

A Henderson County game warden received a call with information about a man who had posted a video of a small alligator in his bathtub on the social media platform Snapchat.

The individual also was a suspect in a local illegal hunting incident that took place in January 2019 involving a large fallow deer rumored to have been shot from the road. The warden made contact with the individual, who admitted to possessing the alligator and agreed to a meeting where he would hand it over.

The warden recovered the three-foot-long alligator, which was later released into the wild. The suspect also admitted to shooting the fallow deer from the road and told the warden where he had stashed the antlers.

The antlers were recovered, and citations were issued for the offenses.

Prius Driver Nabbed With Foisted Fawns

While driving down I-35 near Belton, a caller let game wardens know he observed two live white-tailed deer fawns in the back seat of a Toyota Prius. The warden got the vehicle information and contacted its owner, who resided in Limestone County, and instructed him to meet at the sheriff’s office and turn over the two deer.

Upon arrival, the warden seized the two fawns and noticed one had a hole in its ear due to a missing ear tag. The driver admitted he worked at a deer breeder facility/ranch in Dimmit County, and he took both fawns (one from within the breeder facility without a valid permit and the other from outside the facility) without permission from the ranch manager.

The warden took the driver into custody for Triple T Violation (Trap/Transport/Transplant Game Animal without permit-Class B Misdemeanor) and Possession of a Live Game Animal. The driver was booked into the Limestone County Jail. Wardens contacted the ranch manager at the breeder facility and received authorization to file additional charges on the subject for taking both deer without landowner consent. Cases are pending.

Kayak Bass Tournament Cheater Hooked

An individual was recently sentenced to jail time, restitution of nearly $3,000, suspension of his fishing license for a year and banishment from fishing in tournaments after he was caught cheating.

The court decision was the culmination of a game warden investigation into bass fishing tournament fraud on Decker Lake in Travis and Bastrop counties. The individual used a unique sleight of hand during a catch-and-release kayak fishing event that used photos taken by contestants out on the water of their catches placed on a measuring board, with the angler having the most inches of bass in the aggregate declared the winner.

Upon inspection of the violators vessel, a cut tail of a bass was found in the paddle well of the kayak. The violator initially stated he found the cut tail in the reeds and was taking it to shore to turn it in. Later the violator confirmed to have used the tail to place over another bass, using his hand to cover the questionable area, to make the fish look longer on multiple occasions.

Hoosiers Busted for Poaching Deer

From Indiana DNR:

Austin VanBritson, 21, and Garrett Hoss, 19, both of Evansville, were charged with poaching white-tailed deer during the 2018 hunting season in the Vanderburgh County Superior Court.

VanBritson was entered into an informal deferral program through the Vanderburgh County Superior Court on April 26, 2019. VanBritson received a two-year revocation of hunting privileges, was ordered to attend a Hunter Education Course, received 24 hours of community service, and forfeited the rifle used to take the deer. In addition to court-ordered fines and penalties, each were ordered to pay a $500 replacement fee to the DNR for the illegally taken deer.

Indiana Conservation Officers received an anonymous tip on Oct. 31, 2018,  that a white-tailed deer had been illegally taken in Vanderburgh County the previous day near the Thunderbolt Pass Golf Course in Evansville.

Indiana Conservation Officers Keith Wildeman and Matt Porter responded to conduct surveillance of the area. After several hours, VanBritson and Hoss arrived to retrieve the illegally taken deer, and the officersapprehended the suspects in the act.

Investigation determined that VanBritson shot an eight-point buck using a .270 caliber rifle on the previous day after legal hunting hours. VanBritson told the officers he shot the deer as it was standing in a bean field on the north side of Petersburg Road across from the golf course. VanBritson said he located the deer in the evening, then waited for a break in traffic before he stood up through the sunroof of his vehicle and shot across the roadway with his high-powered rifle.

VanBritson and Hoss returned the next morning and located the wounded buck. VanBritson then shot and killed it with a bow and arrow. The men then left the scene, intending to return after dark to retrieve the deer.

Both faced multiple charges, including the illegal taking of a white-tailed deer, shooting across a publicroadway, shooting from a motorized conveyance, use of artificial light to take white-tailed deer, huntingwithout landowner consent, hunting without a valid license, and hunting with a firearm in a closed season.

In a separate and unrelated incident in January 2018, VanBritson and Hoss were charged with hunting without landowner consent and illegal possession of a white-tailed deer in Posey County.

Trout Snaggers Tied Up in Tennessee

From reporter Richard Simms in Chattanooga:

Clay County Sgt. Bill Moulton had a busy night stopping illegal spotlighting in a portion of the Tennessee county. The following day was Free Hunting Day and squirrel and deer hunters were out again, along with the sergeant. Despite a busy time, when a call came in to the TWRA Poaching Hotline, Moulton responded.

A husband and wife had been camping and fishing below Dale Hollow Dam when they noticed a group of six men snagging trout early in the day. After illegally collecting several trout, the men left and the couple assumed they’d never see them again. But the group came back after lunch and resumed their illegal activity. The couple called the TWRA Poaching Hotline.

TWRA Dispatcher Joseph Cook received the call and contacted Moulton, who was able to reach the scene quickly and watch as five adults and one juvenile illegally snagged more trout. When he approached, two men fled but Moulton was able to apprehend them. The men had illegally snagged at least 21 trout earlier in the day. They were found in possession of 43 more trout when Moulton observed them.

Read the rest of the Simms' report from here.


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