These poaching cases will make your blood boil.
There is nothing worse than a poacher. Someone who steals natural resources from the public is pretty much considered the lowest of the low by any hunter or fisherman.
But there are some cases that are way worse than others.
With that in mind, here are 10 cases that will make any law-abiding sportsmen and women’s blood boil. These are cases that went well beyond just stealing natural resources. Some went on for years at a time.
These are cases that make all hunters and fisherman look bad.
Ohio deer meat ring
This one went down last June in Ohio. Authorities say 70-year-old John Zayac and seven other suspects were responsible for the poaching of 39 deer, 22 of them bucks between October 2013 and February 2016.
The deer in this case were often shot under feeders under motion sensing lights. And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, Zayac was allegedly selling the meat for massive profits.
The ring came crashing down after Zayac made the mistake of bragging about the crime to a stranger in a bar. Fortunately for the deer and Ohio hunters, that stranger ended up being an undercover agent who began an investigation into the group’s crimes.
At the press conference announcing charges against the group, prosecutors didn’t mince words: “These are racketeers in camouflage,” said James Guitierrez, Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor.
Brothers poach 8 trophy bull elk off private property
If there’s anything worse than a poacher, it’s a trespasser. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced last November they had charged two brothers, James Stephen Page and William Thomas Page, with an astounding eight felonies.
According to authorities, the two brothers had been trespassing and poaching elk for a decade off a single ranch near Lewiston. If convicted, the brothers could receive a lifetime loss of hunting and fishing privileges. No doubt many Montana hunters will be happy to hear that.
Minnesota case dismissed by a judge
This one is likely frustrating for outdoorsmen and women and wildlife officials alike. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources slapped Joshua Liebl in January of 2015 with various poaching charges after finding 28 sets of deer antlers, four sets of elk antlers, one set of mule deer antlers, and a piebald deer in his possession.
Having been previously convicted of illegal activity that led to a loss of his Minnesota hunting license in 2013, officials probably thought they had an open and shut case.
But in April of 2016, a judge was forced to throw out the case after a defense attorney for Liebl successfully argued that Liebl’s fourth amendment rights (protection against unlawful search and seizure) were violated when investigators placed a tracking device on his truck without a proper warrant.
While Liebl’s attorney called the ruling an “important victory for the rule of law and for the privacy of sportsmen in Minnesota,” we somehow doubt most Minnesota hunters saw it the same way.
Poaching ring leader banned from hunting for life
One of the sad things about many of these major poaching cases is just how long the crimes went on. In the case of Charles “Bill” Foster and his wife Sally, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say their wildlife crime spree spanned a 10-year period.
During that time they poached over 30 deer and elk and took more than 65 fish over legal limits. As if that wasn’t enough, they also helped other locals in poaching activities and allowed nonresident family members to use their tags.
Charles later pled guilty to five felonies and Sally pled guilty to two. Montana hunters will be happy to know Charles was banned for life from hunting in Montana and Sally lost her privileges for a decade. They also had to pay $11,000 in fines and restitution for their crimes.
Four bighorn sheep left to waste
Going on a bighorn sheep hunt is a rare privilege in both the U.S. and Canada. It can take years of applying to get tags, often in rigorous lotto systems depending on the state or province. Even when one is selected, the tags often aren’t cheap. So it is maddening when someone poaches one.
In 2013, Timothy, Anthony and Tyler Yach, Matthew Lecerf, and Seth Gould ventured into an area near Cadomin, Alberta that had been off-limits to hunters for 30 years. Once there, they poached four bighorn sheep and left the heads and meat behind to rot.
Fortunately, they were caught by Alberta Fish and wildlife after someone reported them. Each of them got their hunting licenses suspended and had to pay $24,500 in fines.
Using someone else’s tags
Some poachers just don’t care about the crimes they are committing. Then there are the ones that try to pass off their stolen game as legitimate harvests.
In 2014, the Minnesota DNR caught Michael Walz red-handed with an untagged buck and several hunting licenses that were not his.
It turns out he’d been poaching deer and tagging them with the tags in the names of family and friends for a while. The DNR later confiscated six head mounts and seven antler wall plaques from his home. He admitted all were poached.
Walz ended up paying $3,200 in legal fees, had to make a public apology, and do 80 hours of community service for his crimes. His ill-gotten trophies are now used by the DNR in education about the state’s wildlife laws.
Snagging huge numbers
Fish snagging is about as low as one can go when trying to poach fish. In one particularly disgusting fish-snagging case last November, Sergey Yatchuk, Mikhail F. Sakalosh, and Petro Parfenyk were caught snagging and netting salmon from Newfane’s Burt Dam in New York.
The men poached an unbelievable 69 salmon before the New York DEC arrived on the scene and put an end to the crime. The poachers ended up in jail facing 32 different fishing violations.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees poach an elk
As law-abiding hunters and fishermen, it’s especially frustrating when someone who is supposed to be one of the good guys is found to be a poacher. Yet, that is exactly what happened in October 2014, when two U.S. Fish and Wildlife employees were found to have shot an elk in Colorado in an area off-limits to hunting.
Thad Bingham and Brian Scheer were finally hit with fines in July of 2016 for their crimes. In Bingham’s case, he also had to donate $5,000 to the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
Buck stabbed and suffocated to death
Viewer discretion advised
This one from North Dakota is even uglier because it was all caught on film. Only one deer was killed in this case, but it was the brutal manner it was done that sickened hunters everywhere. In a 17-minute video, a buck is dragged to shore from a pond and stabbed and suffocated.
North Dakota officials released the video in hopes of a lead and later filed arrest warrants for two of the suspects.
We haven’t heard any updates on this case in a while, unfortunately. Maybe a little extra exposure will help generate some new leads. If you know anything, contact North Dakota Game and Fish.
100+ animals “thrill killed”
In a case that extends over state lines, Washington and Oregon officials are still working on what Washington authorities called their “worst poaching case ever.”
Up to 10 people were involved in this case that saw deer, bears, elk, and bobcats allegedly killed for fun by the group. Many of the crimes were caught on video where the poachers used dogs to kill over 30 bears.
At least three suspects, Eddy Dills, Joseph Dills, and Erik Christian Martin have all pled not guilty to hundreds of charges in the case.
We’re still waiting to see how it all shakes out in this one.
As you can see, some people just have a complete disregard for wildlife laws and when they commit these crimes, they steal from all of us. Remember that wildlife law enforcement officials are often under-funded and under-staffed around the country. If you see something, say something and you can help put an end to these crimes that make all hunters and fisherman look bad.