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Wyoming GF investigating moose poaching incident

Basin Republican Rustler of Basin, Wyoming

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Charges pending against Minnesota resident

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is investigating a Minnesota man's role in the poaching of two moose last month in the Iron Mountain area of the Bighorn National Forest.

Charges have yet to be filed, and for that reason, Greybull Game Warden Bill Robertson withheld the name of the hunter, saying only that he is from Minnesota, was in the area hunting elk and has hunted in Wyoming in the past.

The man has hired legal counsel and the charges -- likely to be high misdemeanors -- will be forthcoming, according to Robertson, who has been investigating the case since Oct. 23.

Robertson said the initial report came from a local hunter, who told him that two moose had been shot and left to waste in the Iron Mountain area, near Upper Medicine Lodge Creek.

Through the investigation, Robertson was able to make contact with members of a party of nonresident elk hunters who had been in the general area recently. They told him that they had seen the two moose -- one a cow, the other a bull calf -- during their hunts.

With better information, Robertson was able to find the carcasses. The two carcasses were found within 100 yards of each other and were decaying, but some bullet evidence was collected from the adult, Roberson said.

The killings occurred in Moose Area 42, where the season is now closed. Robertson called it "one of the most sought-after moose areas in the entire state of Wyoming," noting that just five tags are issued annually.

"On top of that, if s one of the best trophy areas in the state," he said. "So when we lose a cow and a bull calf, we not only lose one of the production elements out of that moose area, but also the calf."

Robertson called it a loss "not only to hunters, but to the wildlife viewing public" because if s "one of the better trophy areas in the state" and moose within it "are photographed all summer long" by wildlife observers using Forest Service Road 17.

Robertson said the suspect "was licensed to hunt elk... and at this point, we believe he was hunting alone at the time, that he had observed these moose for several days, but that for some reason, on that particular day (Oct 19), he decided to shoot them both."

The G&F will allege in the filing that the suspect tried repeatedly to enlist the help of others to get the two moose off the mountain.

"In his mind, he was going to try to bring them out," Robertson said, adding that no one -- including the out-of-state hunters he approached -- agreed to help him.

The moose were shot with a "high-powered hunting rifle" and "at close range," according to Robertson. "The subject has hunted moose before... there's no question he knew what he was doing."

Robertson is working with the Big Horn County Attorney's office on the charging documents. The Minnesota hunter will face either a charge of "wanton destruction" or "taking a moose without a license."

Either one would be a high-degree misdemeanor, with potential fines of up to $10,000, restitution of up to $7,500 per animal, and possible loss of hunting privileges for up to six years per count.

Original Publication Date: November 11, 2010

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