By Bob Janiskee
Considering the sentence that a Gallatin County, Montana, court recently levied on Montana resident Stephen Slavinsky, it’s going to be harder to argue that the state courts are too lenient with poachers. We can’t know exactly what Slavinsky felt after the sentence was handed down on May 19th, but I’ll warrant that it was the psychological equivalent of being flattened by an 18-wheeler.
The 44-year old Slavinsky pleaded guilty to four state felony poaching charges arising from an investigation conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in cooperation with the National Park Service. Slavinsky had been conducting illegal guiding, hunting, and trapping operations, including repeated forays into Yellowstone National Park for taking or attempting to take elk and river otters.
This was not Slavinsky’s first conviction for poaching wildlife in a national park. Poaching an elk in the same area of Yellowstone had earned him a misdemeanor federal conviction back in 1987.
In addition to receiving a 20-year prison sentence (15 years suspended), Slavinsky was prohibited from ever again having firearms or any other kind of weapon in his possession, banned from hunting anywhere in the world for the rest of his life, ordered to pay court costs, and directed to forfeit all mounts, antlers, horns, and pelts seized during the criminal investigation.
Slavinsky has not been banned from the national parks for life, but he does have to wait 20 years before again setting foot in any national park.
According to NPS Special Agent David Barland-Liles, the stiff sentence Slavinsky received in the state court has prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the National Park Service to drop plans to file additional federal misdemeanor charges.