By Kelly Burgess
A three-year investigation into the illegal killing of elk in Montana has resulted in criminal convictions for 11 resident and nonresident hunters and a total of $37,300 in fines and restitution.
Eight of the 11 defendants also lost a total of 22 years of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in Montana as well as the other 35 states involved in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, an agreement that recognizes suspension of hunting, trapping and fishing licenses in member states (Pennsylvania became the 36th member state on Jan. 1).
"The case involved a group of hunters from the Billings area, South Dakota, Utah and Arizona who hunted south Phillips County from 2000 to 2009, killing elk without licenses and valid permits while loaning licenses to those in the hunting party who did not have them," Lennie Buhmann, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks criminal investigator, said in a press release. "When the hunters were confronted about their violations, most of them were honest and owned up to what they had been doing for almost a decade."
The multi-year investigation resulted in search warrants being served on a hunting camp/lodge in southern Phillips County and a residence in Yellowstone County, Mont.
Eleven unlawfully killed bull elk were recovered -- two which were trophy class, which alone resulted in $16,000 in restitution charges. Another animal, a cow elk, was also poached but was not recovered.
Buhmann credits officers from the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks Department, who assisted with defendant interviews, with the outcome. "Without the help of the officers in South Dakota, successful prosecution of this case would not have been possible," he said.