(KALISPELL, Mont.) – Montana game wardens completed an investigation into significant wildlife violations that resulted in severe penalties for a pair of Trout Creek residents.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks launched an investigation in October 2015 into alleged residency violations involving Derek Ricks and Cheryl Coon Ricks of Trout Creek, Montana.
The investigation, led by former Polson Game Warden and current FWP Region 6 Warden Captain Ron Howell, FWP Game Warden Tom Chianelli and FWP Region 1 Investigator Brian Sommers, evolved into a larger case that included illegally hunting game animals over bait and the unlawful supplemental feeding of game animals.
In one instance, Sommers estimates that several hundred pounds of supplemental feed was placed at a single feeder.
“This is one of the most severe cases of providing supplemental feed to wildlife that I have encountered in my 32-year career,” Sommers said.
Derek Ricks and Cheryl Coon Ricks were charged with several wildlife crimes, including failing to meet the residency requirements as described in Montana Code Annotated § 87-2-102. The state’s residency law requires an individual to reside in Montana for 180 consecutive days prior to purchasing a resident license; file taxes as a resident of Montana; and an individual cannot purchase a resident license in another state at the same time they purchase a resident license in Montana.
In August 2017, Derek Ricks entered plea agreements with Sanders and Gallatin counties and was fined a total of $10,210. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $2,500 and lost his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for 36 months.
Cheryl Coon Ricks entered plea agreements with Sanders and Gallatin counties and was fined $3,425. She was ordered to pay $500 restitution and lost her hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for 36 months.
In December 2016, Thompson Falls Game Warden Troy Hinck and Sommers issued 56 citations to Derek Ricks in Sanders and Gallatin counties for unlawful possession of big game; non-resident purchasing Montana resident licenses; providing supplemental feed to big game; hunting with the aid of bait; and other violations.
Derek Ricks’ charges for unlawfully killed wildlife included a bull elk from 2012 that was shot on a resident license, a mule deer buck from 2012 shot on a resident license, a white-tailed buck shot in 2015 on a resident license with the aid of bait, a black bear from 2015 shot on a resident license with the aid of bait, and failure to report the harvest of the bear to FWP.
Sommers issued 11 citations to Cheryl Coon Ricks in Sanders and Gallatin counties for unlawful possession of big game; a non-resident purchasing Montana resident licenses; providing supplemental feed to big game; hunting with the aid of bait; and other violations Unlawfully killed wildlife charges for Cheryl Coon Ricks included a whitetail buck from 2015 shot on a resident license and with the aid of bait.
FWP’s Law Enforcement Division maintains a strong commitment to managing wildlife and its environment and protecting Montana’s hunting, fishing, trapping, and recreation heritage.
Anyone with possible information regarding a wildlife or state lands crime is encouraged to contact TIP-MONT, or 800-847-6668. Callers remain anonymous. Information can also be submitted online at fwp.mt.gov/enforcement/tipmo