Poaching. Itâ€™s an abhorrent crime and one of the extremely rare areas where lifelong sportsmen and misguided antis can even agreeâ€”violators must pay and pay dearly! Whether itâ€™s the quest for bigger antlers, the chance to profit offÂ a trophy or the selfish desire to hold false bragging rights on oneâ€™s hunting skills, it seems the degree of atrocities committed by todayâ€™s outdoor criminal out-shocks the masses with each new headline.
As one would expect, as these criminals raise their level of lawlessness to new heights, judges are responding with bigger fines and longer jail time for the Nationâ€™s most belligerent offenders. Following are eight of what are believed to be some of the biggest poaching cases in U.S. history and sadly, all of them have been committed in just the last five or six years.
Click through the photos below for all the details. Be sure to let us know if we missed any egregious offenders.
Jim Edward Page, 43, and Curtis Wallace, 45, were caught by police and admitted to trespassing. The initial charges led to further investigation that revealed the involvement of two other men, Wendell Taylor, 43, and Gregory Crokarell, 41 and as many as 41 deer mounts and antlers. Many of the illegally confiscated mounts had been taken to a taxidermist for mounting. In a plea agreement, Wallace lost his hunting privileges for seven years, was fined $2,500, received one-year probation and ordered to surrender his mounts. He still faced possible federal charges, while his co-conspirators awaited trials as well. (Pictured above: Tennesse wildlife officers at Fort Campbell press conference.)
In addition to charges directly related to the killing of the animals, some of the nine were also charged with racketeering, computer crimes and identity theft because they apparently bought licenses in other peopleâ€™s names and then illegally registered the poached deer. Game officials were aware of allegations concerning some of those involved, and after investigating an initial case of an illegally purchased license, officials began to discover the breadth and depth of the poaching ring and the true identities of those involved. Offenders face as many as 20 years in jail and fines of up to $375,000 a piece. One of those charged, Miguel A. Kennedy, 26, of Springfield, Ore., received eight months in prison and three years probation for his role and is cooperating with officials in the case of the other participants. Others in the case, including alleged ringleader Shane Donoho, 37, are still awaiting trial. (Pictured above: Oregon wildlife officer with evidence from the case.)
Some of the whitetail and mule deer mounts and racks confiscated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ranged in size from 120 inches all the way up to 200 inches. Clients allegedly paid between $2,500 and $5,500 to participate in the illegal hunts. Officials continue to investigate the case and charges may be pending for some of the clients.
For their part in leading the operation, Texas brothers Martin Butler and James Butler were sentenced in June to a combined 5.75 years in prison and fined $70,000. (Pictured above: Part of the collection seized as part of the case)
The alleged crimes committed included the unlawful killing of dozens of deer including three large racked bucks, spotlighting and illegally selling and buying game. Some deer were believed to have been killed in Pennsylvania during the stateâ€™s early muzzleloader and regular firearms deer seasons in 2010 and some were believed to have been illegally taken in Maine. While executing search warrants at the residents of the men in question, agents seized hundreds of pounds of meat, firearms, antlers, bows and arrows, spotlights, a mounted hawk and an owl, a computer and other hunting related equipment an Pennsylvania Game Commission press release announced.
Charged in the case are Everett T. â€śTylerâ€ť Leonard, 31, who faces 117 charges related to the case; Everett H. â€śLennyâ€ť Leonard, 59, who faces 52 charges; Carlton John Enos, 19, who faces 59 charges; Lucien H. Clavet, 44, who faces 22 charges; and a 17-year-old juvenile. (Pictured above: From left to right are: Carlton John Enos, 19, Everett H. (Lenny) Leonard, 59, and Everett Tyler Leonard, 31, all of Turner, Maine; and Lucien H. Clavet, 44, of Monmouth, Maine.)
It was discovered that clients were allowed to shoot beyond their bag limits or shoot against their guideâ€™s limits.
In all, tickets were mailed to the client offenders with fines totaling more than $120,000. Meanwhile, the guides all received various fines, probation and the loss of hunting and guiding privileges in the state. The lodgeâ€™s owners, Theodore and Orlan Mertz, agreed to a plea deal that included 18 months probation, fined them $80,000 and $10,000 restitution and banned them from guiding in the United States ever again.It was the largest single financial penalty levied in North Dakota for a wildlife-related crime. (Representative image)
Investigators found the perpetrators were interested in either meat or velvet racks. In Operation Tenderloin, agents found many of the deer were shot at night using spotlights and rifles strictly for their meat. Seven people were arrested and charged in connection with unlawfully killing between 80 to 100 deer and simply cutting the tenderloins from the animals and leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. That case resulted in $15,480 in fines, hunting license suspensions and the forfeiture of a dozen firearms. Operation Velvet spanned even more species and revealed bucks were killed out of season in the summer, while their antlers were still in velvet, ducks killed with rifles in the summer while they still sported breeding plumage and wild turkeys killed over bait. Four men were charged with crimes related to the operation and were fined a total of $3,890 as well as forfeited crossbows, rifles, shotguns and trophy mounts. (Representative image)
Dean Ruth was found guilty of operating a poaching out of Missoula County and in the state of Pennsylvania for at least 10 years in which in Montana alone, more than 100 trophy-class mule deer, whitetails, elk, antelope, moose, mountain lions and black bears were poached by Ruth and eight associates. Among Ruthâ€™s associates, at least seven were ordered to pay more than $20,000 in state fines and restitution, while some also received jail sentences. Ruth and his wife Renita, who were accused of using spotlights and suppressors while committing some of the crimes, were ordered to pay $28,000 in fines and restitution to the state. Ruth also received a 20-year prison sentence with 15 of those years suspended. He lost his privileges to hunt, fish or trap in Montana for the rest of his life and as a convicted felon, will never be able to legally own a firearm again. (Picutred above: Ruth in court, waiting to be sentenced.)