This week, the winner of the 2018 reality hunting show "Extreme Huntress" filed suit against Wyoming's Game and Fish and several other entities stemming from what she claims are false allegations of poaching. Melanie M. Peterson, 57, claims that in investigating her for said misconduct, Wyoming state officials cornered her in 2019, seized her electronics, and questioned and intimidated her grandchildren.
Her civil suit lists nine claims, including invasion of privacy, unreasonable search and seizure, slander and defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Shortly before the poaching claims came to light, Peterson had won the"Extreme Huntress" contest, which tests women's outdoor skills and fitness, and she'd set a new world record with an air rifle. Her star was on the rise, and she was set to reap the financial benefits of various sponsorships and endorsements. She also had an offer to sell her hunting lodge, Timberline Lodge, for $3 million and buy a hunting outfitter, and had more than $600,000 in booked hunts with a three-year waitlist for clients. Most of it vaporized after she was charged with poaching.
The Poaching Investigation
On August 9, 2019, Peterson asked Wyoming Game and Fish Warden Adam Hymus for permission to access private property for hunting after ownership changed on her hunting grounds. According to Cowboy State Daily, Hymus said he would bring the permission forms on August 10. Peterson claimed she would have all four of her grandchildren for the weekend at her hunting lodge.
That Sunday morning, Peterson woke to Hymus and other game wardens at the door, requesting to conduct an interview about her outfitting hunts.
According to Peterson's complaint, she answered all of the questions the game wardens asked. Despite this, the interview soon turned into "an interrogation," her complaint alleges. She states she was not allowed to use her phone or contact her husband, and when her grandchildren awoke they were separated and questioned. Her phone and computers—11 devices in total—were seized.
She was eventually charged with 19 misdemeanors, including seven counts of taking game without a license or during a closed season, two counts of taking a fur-bearing animal without a license, and two counts of guiding without a license. Allegations against Peterson began as early as 2011, and Wyoming Game and Fish has been investigating her since 2017.
Per the Wyoming Game and Fish's 50-page affidavit, Peterson allegedly allowed clients to shoot several animals without licenses. Clients claimed that Peterson would say she had an extra antelope tag they could use, or she simply permitted them to kill different species than they had tags for.
Peterson pleaded not guilty to the charges in 2021 in Sublette Country Circuit Court, and the case is still active.
Peterson filed her lawsuit on November 2, 2023 in the U.S. District Court for Wyoming against the Game and Fish and several game warders, as well as the Wyoming Board of Professional Outfitters and Guides.
In addition to her claims against the Wyoming Game and Fish for invasion of privacy, unreasonable search and seizure, trespassing, and false arrest, Peterson also blames Game and Fish for ruining her reputation as a hunting guide and inflicting emotional distress on her and her family.
She seeks compensation for damages to her reputation, as well as all economic and non-economic damages revolving around the case.
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