By Faith Heaton Jolley
SAN JUAN COUNTY — After a yearlong investigation, five men have been charged and fined in connection with two poaching cases, according to Division of Wildlife Resources.
In the spring of 2014, DWR officers began investigating the illegal killing of a trophy buck deer in San Juan County. The 35-inch deer was killed in November 2011 with San Juan County resident Timothy Riffey’s permit, DWR said in a news release. The permit allowed a special season extension for disabled persons.
The investigation revealed that Riffey had “been given highly sought after Elk Ridge limited entry deer permits from 2010-2012,” DWR said. However, officers believe two other men, Derren Klein and John Peterson, had obtained the permits for Riffey.
Riffey told investigators he was only present during the hunts in case they were checked by wildlife officers. He said he doesn’t own firearms and hadn’t hunted big game in Utah before 2010, DWR said.
Klein, Riffey and John and James Peterson were all charged in connection with wanton destruction of wildlife, a third-degree felony. Riffey was also charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the poaching case, DWR said.
During the investigation, another poaching incident involving three of the men was discovered, DWR said. The second poaching incident occurred in September 2011. John Peterson drew a limited-entry San Juan County bull elk permit and was aided during the hunt by James Peterson, Mason Latham and Klein.
John Peterson shot and killed a 6x7 trophy bull elk on Elk Ridge but “abandoned it because the antlers were not large enough,” DWR said. “John Peterson then killed a 380-inch trophy bull several days later on the Abajo Mountains.”
John and James Peterson, Klein and Latham were each charged in connection with wanton destruction of protected wildlife.
The fines and restitution for both cases total $20,500 and the men involved face potential loss of hunting privileges for 10 to 20 years, DWR said.