Citizen’s Against Poaching - Thanks to You It Works
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Early in 2012, Senior Conservation Officer Greg Johnson received an anonymous tip the Todd Navarro had taken three men from Williston, ND on an illegal mountain lion hunt in Boundary County. None of the three men had a current Idaho hunting license or mountain lion tag. The informant continued to tell Officer Johnson that all three had killed lions with the aid of hounds, and that they had paid $500 each to Mr. Navarro. Mr. Navarro is not a licensed outfitter or guide in Idaho, so he could not legally guide anyone. Hunting with hounds in Idaho as a nonresident also requires a hound hunter permit, which is very limited and can be obtained by special drawing only.
Following up on that tip Officer Johnson discovered that Todd Navarro, his son Jacob Navarro, and their friend Chris Wilson all reported killing mountain lions, in a two day period the previous week. Officer’s Johnson and Dave Overman contacted the US Fish and Wildlife Service and North Dakota Game and Fish for assistance. ND Wildlife Officer Brent Schwan located three Idaho mountain lion hides at a taxidermy shop in Williston. The taxidermy records showed that Eric Harmel, Dwayne Hellman, and Richard Gustafson, all from Williston, claimed the three lions.
Officers Overman and Dan Hislop drove the 750 miles from Coeur d’Alene, ID to Williston, ND to interview the three men, all of whom confessed to knowingly killing lions illegally in Idaho. Officers seized skulls, hides, and archery equipment, all of which had been associated with the illegal hunt. All six men were charged with Lacey Act violations in federal court. Under the Lacey Act, any unlawfully taken animal that crosses state lines becomes a federal violation.
In August 2012 Gustafson, Harmel, and Hellman all pled guilty at the federal courthouse in Coeur d’Alene. They were each sentenced to pay $4800 in fines, fees and restitution, perform 25 hours of community service, lose hunting privileges in the US for one year, and forfeit their bows, and the lion skulls and hides.
In May 2014 Jacob Navarro and Chris Wilson both pled guilty in federal court and received $775 and $525 in fines and fees respectively, and both lost their US hunting privileges for three years.
In October 2014 Todd Navarro pled guilty in federal court and was sentenced to pay $525 in fines and fees, five years of probation, and a five year loss of hunting privileges in the United States. He is also required to complete 50 hours of community service and take a hunter education class.
This case was an excellent example of several different agencies working together to combat wildlife crime. North Dakota Game and Fish, US Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agents, Idaho Fish and Game, and the US Attorney’s Office all worked together to successfully bring this case to a close.
Two men who trespassed to poach deer in Lemhi County won’t be legally hunting in Idaho anytime soon.
On December 7, 2014, conservation officers received a trespass call from a landowner near the town of Lemhi Idaho, who said hunters had trespassed and shot a deer in their field. The suspects fled the scene with the deer, but were caught by conservation officers on Hwy 33 near I-15. When officers looked in vehicles they found the mule deer from the trespassing complaint, and parts and pieces of four other deer adding up to five total animals for only four hunters. Officers discovered multiple violations in addition to the trespassing, including tagging violations, taking mule deer during closed season, possession of unlawfully taken deer, failing to leave evidence of sex and species naturally attached to the carcass and purchase of a wrong class license. The majority of the deer meat was seized, and DNA samples were taken to determine their species as the mule deer season was closed.
At the hunters’ abandoned camp officers found three of the deer carcasses. One had only the hind quarters and back-straps removed, while the rest of the meat was left to waste. Officers were unable to locate the fifth deer carcass at that time, but suspected another mule deer had been taken, based on the size of the hind-quarters. Further investigation revealed one hunter was a non-resident who had purchased resident licenses and tags. Officers also learned that same suspect killed a mountain lion in 2009 without a tag.
An eventual confession led officers to the carcass of the other mule deer which was taken in the closed season. The suspects had dumped it along the Salmon River, and had left most of the meat, including both front shoulders, to waste.
All four men pleaded guilty and received the following sentences:Chad Anderson of Heber City, Utah: Unlawfully taking two or more big game animals within a 12 month period, Wasteful destruction of game, purchase of wrong class licenses and trespassing.