Editor’s Note: MeatEater mistakenly included images of the wrong people in the earlier version of this story. We’re very sorry for that error and apologize to anyone affected.
Four southwest Mississippi men have been sentenced for poaching wild turkeys in multiple states. In addition to killing in excess of the legal limit, they did not have licenses and were illegally transporting the animals across state lines.
According to MDWFP, a group of Mississippians were charged and arrested for killing nearly 100 turkeys in the 2019 season and trespassing on 15 properties.
During this 11-month investigation, it was discovered that the unlawful activities were taking place in other states, as well. Poachers were crossing state lines with spurs and beards of illegally harvested turkeys in violation of the Lacey Act, prompting a federal investigation.
According to a recent news release, Kenneth Britt, Tony Smith, Barney Bairfield III, and Dustin Treadway were sentenced by U.S. District Judge David Bramlette for violating federal wildlife laws.
The original indictment charged the defendants for taking over 25 wild turkeys without license in Kansas and Nebraska and illegally transporting spurs and beards. Additionally, Britt faced a federal felony charge for lying to a federal law enforcement officer and Smith faced felony charges for killing red-shouldered hawks.
On Feb. 24, 2021, Judge Bramlette sentenced Britt to 5 years of probation with a fine of $25,000; Smith to 4 years of probation with a fine of $15,000; Bairfield to 2 years of probation with a fine of $3,000; and Treadway to 2 years of probation with a fine of $5,000.
Violating these probation terms, which include “a worldwide prohibition from hunting of any type…including accompanying anyone in hunting or being present at a hunting camp during hunting season” could result in imprisonment for any of the offenders.
“The Department of Justice is committed to enforcing the Lacey Act and other federal laws to protect our wildlife resources,” Acting U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca said following the sentencing. “It is my hope that this prosecution sends a strong message that the wanton, indiscriminate killing of the American Wild Turkey, or any animal for that matter, will be met with debilitating and just consequences.”
MeatEater commends the MDFWP, DOJ, and USFWS for their continued efforts to bring poachers to justice.