The final person involved in a major poaching case was sentenced in Flathead County Justice Court November 1, ending the investigation and prosecution of nine young men who illegally shot 15 deer and an elk.
Region One FWP Game Wardens and USFWS Refuge Officer Kevin Shinn joined efforts to investigate the illegal harvest of potentially 29 deer and one elk in 2013 and 2014. Officers were able to gather enough evidence to file charges on 15 of the poached deer and the cow elk. Violations included hunting game animals during a closed season, using artificial light, waste of game, unlawful possession of game animals, violations of commission rules and regulations, and littering. The majority of the suspects were high school students under the age of 18 at the time of the incidents.
The majority of the animals were shot and killed in the Flathead Valley at night with the use of headlights and/or spotlights during the summer and fall months outside of the general big game hunting season. The cow elk was unlawfully killed at Lost Trail Wildlife Refuge, a deer was drug behind a pickup back to their camp and left to waste in the Red Gate area, four whitetail bucks were shot and left to waste in the West Valley area and multiple deer were also shot and left to rot near Creston. Several of the suspects travelled to Liberty County in Eastern Montana during the youth hunt of 2014 without a parent or adult and shot a trophy class whitetail buck with the use of headlights and a flashlight after dark. Several of the individuals were also involved in a littering case where they launched a snowmobile off of a cliff in the Red Gate area and left it.
The evidence collected from the field investigations and the interviews with the subjects led to the issuance of multiple citations. There was a total of $16,425.00 in fines and restitution and 47 years loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges.
FWP Warden Captain Lee Anderson commended lead investigator on the case Game Warden Wes Oedekoven and the other game wardens that put the case together. The game wardens involved in the case would like to give a special thanks to Flathead High School Resource Police Officer Corey Clarke for his assistance in the case. Wardens spent countless hours on this case over a period of more than two years.
“It was very disappointing to see this level of poaching following so closely after several other high-profile poaching cases in the Flathead Valley where multiple deer were shot at night and left to waste,” said Anderson. “Hopefully this will help deter other people from violating the law.”
Anderson reminds people out in the field to report any illegal activity in regards to wildlife. Persons can call 1-800-TIP-MONT to report violations. Callers do not need to identify themselves and rewards are available.