Poachers, smugglers, and other fish and game felons steal our shared natural resources, and “Cal’s Poaching Desk” is here with all the sordid details. For more stories of wildlife wrongdoing, be sure to tune in to “Cal’s Week in Review.” New episodes drop every Sunday.
This month, not even politicians or reality TV stars could escape the long arm of the law.
Donald Trump Jr. got mixed up recently with an illegal bear baiting incident from a 2018 hunt in Utah. The former president’s namesake hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing. Instead, prosecutors are alleging that Trump Jr.’s guide, a fella named Wade Lemon, instructed his scouts to bait a site with a black bear’s favorite snacks, including grain, oil, and pastries.
Lemon baited the site without Trump Jr.’s knowledge, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. But Trump Jr. did kill a bear at or near that spot during the hunt.
For his part, Lemon has been charged with a felony and could face up to five years in prison. The Salt Lake Tribune also reports that the Utah DNR has investigated Lemon a total of eight times. However, this is the first time he has faced felony charges.
Utah state representative Travis Seegmiller resigned his seat in the legislature last month after he was charged in April with illegally taking protected wildlife while trespassing. The lawmaker allegedly killed a whitetail doe with a shotgun in a residential neighborhood back in August, according to Deseret News.
He possessed a valid license, and the hunting season was open, but he did not have permission to hunt on the property. It is also illegal to hunt within 600 feet of a house or dwelling, which Seegmiller did.
When confronted by a neighborhood resident, he allegedly claimed he was out of work and needed the meat for his family. He also said he had secured permission from the property owner.
By the time the police arrived, he had already dragged the doe into his car and left. He pleaded no contest at his hearing, but it looks like his political career, like that doe, won’t survive the incident.
Moving from politics to reality TV (which, as it happens, isn’t much of a move these days), celebrity hunter Blaine Anthony has been charged with violating the Lacey Act. He illegally killed a black bear in Alaska, lied about the incident, and used footage of the hunt on his show. Anthony produces a program called “The Bear Whisperer” and runs a production company creatively named “Nature Productions.”
In May of 2017, Anthony allegedly shot a black bear in Kenai Fjords National Park, where hunting is illegal. Then, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Daily Beast, he claimed on his declaration papers that he killed the bear at a legal spot 19 miles away. Footage of that hunt, along with another illegal kill, were aired on “The Bear Whisperer.”
Anthony is facing up to one year in prison and a $100,000 fine for the misdemeanor. As of this writing, he has not commented on the charges.
In another Lacey Act violation, a Georgia man is headed to prison after being convicted of illegally netting thousands of turtles in Georgia and shipping them to California.
Nathan Horton made over $150,000 between 2015 and 2017. Prosecutors said the turtles were destined for Asia, where they would sell for a substantial profit. In December of last year, Horton pleaded guilty to his charges. In May, he was sentenced to one year and one day in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a fine of $10,000.
That poaching case is all wrapped up, but this one is just getting started.
Wildlife officials in British Columbia are asking for the public’s help in finding the person who killed two cougar kittens, dismembered them, and dumped them on a Forest Service road on Vancouver Island. It is illegal in British Columbia to kill cougar kittens or cougars in a family unit.
The individual who violated this law shot both kittens and cut off their heads and paws before leaving them on the side of the road. Officials haven’t speculated on what motivated the poacher or announced any suspects.
If you live on Vancouver Island and hear someone bragging at the bar about his new cougar paw keychain, give the B.C. Conservation Officer Service a call. I don’t know why anyone would brag about having the paws of cougar kittens, but I also don’t know why anyone would cut them off in the first place. In any case, keep your ears peeled, BC-ers.
Finally, two Georgia men have been charged with poaching an alligator out of season near Augusta. The suspects were caught red-handed when a concerned citizen contacted the Georgia DNR and said that two men had shot an alligator and were attempting to load it into a truck.
Only one of the men was still at the scene when the authorities arrived, but they found enough evidence to charge both of them. To add insult to injury, the poachers broke through the back window of their truck in their hurry to load the 10-foot alligator into the bed.
Quick side note on gators: the story of the American alligator is one of the coolest in conservation history. Animals don’t often make it off the Endangered Species List, and those that do rarely develop a huntable population.
But in the last 50 years, American alligators have done both. Gators were placed on the Endangered Species List in 1967, but thanks to the efforts of hunters and conservationists, the species became one of the first success stories of the Endangered Species Act. Today, gator populations have recovered to the point that states throughout the southeast, including Texas and North Carolina, offer hunting tags.
So, if you ask me, those two gator poachers deserve whatever they have coming to them.
For more poaching and conservation news, along with dope animal facts, check out “Cal’s Week in Review.” New episodes drop every Sunday.