October 2015, Salmon Region
On October 29, 2015 Idaho Fish and Game officers received a Big Game Mortality Report (BGMR) for a wolf harvested by Robert Koester. Suspicious circumstances related to the time Koester’s wolf tag was purchased led officers to look further into the wolf’s harvest.
After conducting several interviews, the officers learned that Koester, formerly of Salmon Idaho, did not have a wolf tag when he shot the wolf on October 24, 2015. Koester was deer hunting on the last day of the general season when he shot the wolf. After killing the wolf, Koester drove to Salmon and purchased a wolf tag in an attempt to cover the unlawful take. During their investigation officers also learned that Koester was a full time resident of Montana, where he lived and worked. He had been fraudulently purchasing resident licenses using his parent’s address. During that time Koester also killed a bull elk in Unit 37A with a wrong class license and tag.
On September 06, 2016, Koester was issued 28 citations for the unlawful take of the wolf, possession of the unlawfully taken wolf, hunting without a valid tag, the unlawful take of a bull elk, and for purchasing wrong class licenses for 5 years.
As part of a plea deal in Lemhi County, Koester pleaded guilty to 5 counts of purchasing the wrong class of license. Koester was sentenced to 900 days of jail, with 850 of those suspended, two years’ probation, 3 years of loss of his hunting and fishing privileges, 16 hours of community service, and a total of $6451.60 in fines and penalties. That amount includes the civil penalties for the wolf and the elk as well as $4017 in restitution for the wrong class licenses.
September 2016, Panhandle Region
Last September, Regional Investigator Dave Overman received information from an informant that Dan Harris was buying resident licenses in Idaho, but lived in Washington. The informant supplied Investigator Overman with Facebook photos of Mr. Harris with a very large bull elk that had recently been shot during an Idaho archery hunt. The informant was very upset because the elk was taken using a fraudulent license and tag.
The investigation revealed that Mr. Harris had been an Idaho resident but had continued to buy resident licenses even after getting married and moving to Washington in 2010. Furthermore, it was found that Mr. Harris and his wife both worked at a large, Idaho sporting goods store. Records also showed that his wife was apparently the person who had issued Mr. Harris his 2016 Idaho Resident Hunting License and resident deer and elk tags at the sporting goods store. Mr. Harris’s tax records showed that after he got married and moved to Washington, he started filing Idaho resident tax returns, but with a Washington address on them. When asked about that later, he told Overman he thought that would help him maintain his Idaho residency.
In December, Overman and Senior Conservation Officer Mark Bowen interviewed Mr. and Mrs. Harris. Mr. Harris admitted to buying fraudulent licenses in Idaho, starting in 2010. He had killed several animals using the fraudulent licenses and tags. During the following days, Overman and Officer Bowen took possession of two six point bull elk skull mounts, two buck white-tailed deer skull mounts, and one bear hide and head from Mr. Harris. All of these animals were taken unlawfully with fraudulent licenses and tags.
In March, Mr. Harris plead guilty to 10 of 17 counts of fraudulent license and/or tag purchase. He was sentenced to pay $415.00 in fines, and $7,248.50 in restitution to IDFG. He was also ordered to serve 15 days on the sheriffs work program, and 15 days in jail. His hunting license was revoked for five years and he has probation for two years.
It cannot be overstated that this case might have gone completely undetected had it not been for just one person who was willing to step up and speak out against crime and a person who was stealing wildlife from all the citizens of Idaho.
October 2016, Upper Snake Region
On opening week of the general deer season in 2016, Idaho conservation officers in the Upper Snake Region received a tip from CAP (Citizens Against Poaching).
An observant farm worker was driving east of Rexburg during spud harvest when he observed 2 individuals dragging a 5-point mule deer back to their vehicle from a potato field posted “No Trespassing.” 20 minutes before, as the sun was setting, the farm worker had taken a cell phone picture of the live 5-point mule deer while the deer was feeding in the field. The farm worker approached the red-handed individuals and told them they were trespassing. One suspect, in particular, became very argumentative, forcing the farm worker to leave the scene. Thinking quickly, the worker quickly snapped a couple of pictures of the trespassers and their vehicle license plate before leaving. Then he made the call to CAP to report the violation.
Idaho conservation officers received the call and investigated the report. Evidence collected at the scene, which included a spent 30-30 rifle casing found in the road, indicated that the trespass suspects likely shot at the deer from the roadway, a separate violation and public safety concern. Using the farm worker’s cell phone picture of the suspect’s vehicle license plate, officers were able to track down and interview the suspects in Rigby, ID. When confronted with the photographic evidence and additional evidence collected by conservation officers, the suspects admitted to their actions.
Through additional questioning, officers discovered that the suspect who trespassed to shoot the 5-point, never tagged the buck with his own deer tag. His friend, who was driving the vehicle, had put his tag on the unlawfully taken buck. Officers seized the deer and, at the landowner’s request, issued citations to Robert Messinger and Heath Wilding for trespassing to hunt. The men were also cited for possessing a deer that was unlawfully taken, transferring deer tags, and were given a written warning for shooting from a public roadway.
Both men reached a plea agreement with the county prosecutor’s office. Messinger was fined $202.00 and is on probation for one year. Wilding lost his hunting privileges for a year, is on probation for one year, ordered to pay restitution of $400 for the buck deer, and $75 for deer processing. Officers appreciate the extra mile that folks are willing to go to help make a case, but remind everyone to be very careful when confronting potential violators.
November 2015, Upper Snake Region
In the fall of 2015 Idaho Fish and Game Officers received information that a very large mule deer buck harvested in November in Bonneville County may have been taken illegally. The deer was harvested on the last day of a late controlled deer hunt. The buck was featured on the cover of a popular hunting magazine, a story about the harvest of the buck was aired on a local hunting show, it was entered and won a big buck contest and it was the topic of numerous social media posts.
Officers began the investigation into the incident which culminated with the execution of a search warrant in April of 2016. The warrant was served at the home of Gary and Garrett Nix of Rigby, Idaho. The investigation showed that Gary Nix had a valid tag and permit for the deer and began shooting at it, but when it did not fall he asked his son Garrett, who did not have a valid tag, to help him kill the deer to prevent it from getting away. Both men fired multiple shots before the deer was finally fatally wounded.
On November 21, 2016 Gary Nix, 53 and his son Garrett Nix, 26 both of Rigby plead guilty in Bonneville County to taking the buck unlawfully. Gary Nix was sentenced to $190 in fines and restitution, a one year hunting license suspension and forfeiture of the mule deer buck. Garrett Nix was sentenced to $2,202 fines and restitution, a three year hunting license suspension and 100 hours of community service.
December 2014 - Conservation Officer Stephen Ross, Magic Valley Region
On October 20, 2013, Officer Steven Ross received a call from a landowner that found a dead deer in their beet field during harvest. They also stated a family member may have heard the gunshot and had words with the shooter.
While interviewing the witness, Officer Ross was told they heard a gunshot and when they looked out their window they could see a car shining headlights into the field not far from their home. Concerned, the homeowner went to speak with the occupants of the car about shooting on private property in the dark. The homeowner spoke with the only person in the vehicle, who stated he had struck a deer with his car and wanted to put the animal down. The homeowner was suspicious and decided to write down the suspect’s license plate.
With a license plate number Officer Ross was able to track down the owner of the vehicle, Nolan Wrigley, and interviewed him. When Officer Ross spoke with the individual, Wrigley said he met up with a friend who wanted to go hunting. Wrigley said he only knew his friend’s first name, Jason, and that when they struck a deer with his car, Jason jumped out and shot a deer in the beet field. Officer Ross asked where he could find Jason but Wrigley did not know how to get ahold of his friend at all.
After inspecting the vehicle and the deer, Officer Ross could find no evidence that either had recently been in a collision. The only damage to the deer was a single rifle shot to its right side and a bullet jacket lodged in the heart.
With other witness information and a look into hunting history, I discovered that Wrigley had already harvested a deer that year. Also, the deer was shot in the dark with a rifle and was killed an area only open to archery hunters with a controlled draw tag.
With the gathered information Officer Ross charged Nolan Wrigley with hunting big game during unlawful hours, taking big game with a rifle in an archery only season, waste of game, exceeding the bag limit of deer and possession of an unlawfully taken deer. After a short time in court, Mr. Wrigley plead guilty and was sentenced to 90 days of suspended jail time, 2 years of probation, $885 in fines and was given 3 years of hunting/fishing/trapping license revocations.
Thank you to the sportsmen, landowners, and citizens of Idaho who keep their eyes open and make the call to help protect our natural resources!
December 2014 - Conservation Officer Roy Kinner, Clearwater Region
On Saturday, December 20, 2014, Terry Jones of Cottonwood, and Brett "Bubba" Kuhn of Grangeville grabbed their rifles and went hunting on the South Fork of the Clearwater. It was the last day of an archery-only elk and deer hunt in Unit 15. During the drive in, Kuhn shot at and missed a deer. At about 9:00 am the men saw some elk in the lower end of Earthquake Basin and Kuhn shot and killed one.
Those few shots were heard by some very concerned archery hunters about a mile away in Earthquake Basin. One archer hunted his way to the area hoping to get a chance at an elk. About an hour after the shots were fired, the archer saw two men come to the area and they left the same way. The archer then worked his way through the basin to where he heard the shots that morning and at 3:00 pm, saw 3 men, one with a bow and the other two with pack-frames.
The archer decided to contact them. The men were nervous and very evasive as to why they were wearing pack-frames, and why they were coming to the hunting area that late on the last day of the archery season. The archer then realized he had cell service and called the CAP line as soon as he was clear of the men.
Officers Roy Kinner and George Fischer went to the area immediately and contacted 3 men coming off the hill in the rain at about 6:30 pm that evening. The men had no meat, no rifle, no indication they had killed anything. However, one man did have blood on his pants, which he said came from his elk he was processing that morning. During questioning the men denied killing anything and were allowed to leave.
On Monday, December 22, Biologist Jim White notified Officers Fischer and Kinner that a collared elk from the same area might be dead as the collar started sending a mortality signal on Saturday. Officers Kinner, Fischer, and Roll returned to the location and found the collared elk, left to rot with a bullet in the shoulder. Evidence was collected and interviews conducted, ultimately ending in confessions from the three men.
Terry Jones was cited for killing big game with a rifle during an archery-only season and obstruction and delay. Bubba Kuhn was charged with killing big game with a rifle during an archery-only season and wasteful destruction of wildlife. The third man, Roger Davis of Stites, received written warnings for attempting to assist with the elk recovery.
Total fines and penalties for Jones were $3462, 30 days in jail, 20 suspended, and license revoked for 8 years. Total fines and penalties for Kuhn were $4662, 30 days in jail, suspended 20 days, and license revoked for 10 years.
October 2014 - Conservation Officer Dennis Brandt, Salmon Region
On Oct 2nd 2014, Officer Andy Smith and I received a Citizen’s Against Poaching call on a poached buck antelope near Salmon, ID. After meeting with the witness, we found the dead buck antelope with the horns cut out and back straps removed. All four quarters and tenderloins were left to waste. Unfortunately, the meat was too far gone to salvage. We also found 300 Winchester Magnum casings nearby. The animal appeared to have been shot and wounded and ran for some distance before the poacher finally killed it. The witness observed a pickup from a long distance and gave us the best description he could. We now had a red Toyota short box pickup with a shiny toolbox to find.
Over the next few days our extensive search was unsuccessful. Four days later a red Toyota pickup with a shiny toolbox drove past us going the opposite direction. We turned around and followed the pickup to a home that happened to be in the same area where the antelope had been poached. This is when we met Tyler Cabigas of Carmen, ID. He initially denied shooting the antelope but later admitted that he and a friend Jonathon Bunce, did indeed shoot the antelope, on Oct 2nd. They said it ran for a while and then Tyler finished it off. Tyler then shot it in the head again with his 300 Win Mag so “cutting the horns out would be easier.” Tyler cut out the back straps and Jonathon and Tyler left. Jonathon told IDFG officers that Tyler did this kind of thing “about once a week” and he sells the horns and antlers of his poached animals. A third friend named Justin Haney had the antelope’s horns and backstraps at his home.
All three were charged for their involvement. Tyler received the brunt by serving 5 days in jail with 40 hours of community service to be served with IDFG. The judge also found him guilty of providing false information to officers, killing an antelope during a closed season and wasteful destruction of wildlife. In addition to the above, Tyler paid $1204, lost his hunting privileges for 3 years, and 2 years of probation.
IDFG and Citizen’s Against Poaching would like the thank everyone who takes the time to call in suspected poaching activities. As this case showed, we can’t do it without you.
September 2016 - Senior Conservation Officer Tony Imthurn, Clearwater Region
During October of 2015, a concerned sportsman, John Doe, called Idaho Fish and Game to report two men shooting from a public road at a heard of elk on private property. After reporting the crime ,John Doe moved to where the two men were located and began visiting with them. John Doe observed the two men kick their shell casings around and then picked them up.
Idaho Conservation Officers Barry Cummings, Tony Imthurn, and John McLain received the call and arrived shortly after John Doe started visiting with the two men. The officers identified the them as Charlie Rake and James Light, both of Lewiston Idaho. Officers also located two dead elk in the field. One was a 5x7 Bull elk and the second, a cow elk. Both Charlie Rake and James Light denied shooting from the road and claimed they were in a nearby field when they shot, and they do not know who owns the land the elk were killed on.
John Doe provided a thorough written statement and officers issued citations to both Charlie Rake and James Light for shooting from a public roadway and possession of unlawfully taken elk. Their rifles and elk were seized.
The next day Officer Cummings returned to the crime scene and collected additional evidence that later lead to Charlie Rake’s admission of shooting from the road. Charlie Rake also admitted to throwing his empty shell casings off the road to cover their tracks.
Charlie Rake and James Light plead guilty and were each fined $425, they were also required to each pay a civil penalty of $750, and they lost their hunting privileges for two years.
If it wasn’t for the concerned sportsman taking the time to call, this crime very well could have gone undetected. Those who wish to call can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward. If you do want to “Make The Call”, please call Citizen’s Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999.
September 2016 - Senior Conservation Officer Lucas Swanson, Panhandle Region
In mid-September Senior Conservation Officer Lucas Swanson of Bonners Ferry was contacted by a concerned archery hunter stating he heard two gunshots. The hunter decided to see what happened and he found two guys standing by a dead cow elk and some piles of hay. There is no baiting and no rifle season for cow elk. There is an archery only bull elk hunt.
The next morning, Officer Swanson located two piles of hay and some blood on the ground. He followed some fresh drag marks and UTV tire tracks along an old roadbed to a gut pile, a cow elk head, and hide. Examining the hide, Officer Swanson found what appeared to be a bullet hole. Officer Swanson then followed the UTV tracks to an adjacent residence that belonged to Nicholas Constantinedes, of Naples Idaho.
Based on the information he gathered, Officer Swanson obtained a search warrant for the garage and outbuildings of Mr. Constantinedes’ residence. The next day, Officer Swanson and other conservation officers served a search warrant on Mr. Constantinedes residence. Mr. Constantinedes told the officers that he had helped his friend Roger Doering drag an elk out with his UTV, but that Mr. Doering left with the elk.
District Conservation Officer Josh Stanley later contacted Doering’s father, who stated that his son Roger lived at the Northwoods Tavern, in Naples. Josh left his phone number, and left the elder Doering’s house to go find the tavern. On the way, Roger Doering called Josh and said he shot the elk.
Later in the day Officers Stanley and Swanson met with Roger Doering. Mr. Doering told the officers he had placed the hay to draw in elk, he missed a few times with his bow, and that he got frustrated and killed the cow with his rifle and did not tag it. Mr. Doering was issued several citations, to include take of a big game animal with a firearm during an archery only season, which is a flagrant violation.
A few days later both men appeared in court and pled guilty. Roger Doering was fined $1000, ordered to pay a $750 civil penalty for the loss of the elk, $250 for processing the elk meat, and his hunting privileges were revoked for five years. Mr. Constantinedes was fined $200 and had his hunting privilege revoked for one year.
These men would not have been brought to justice were it not for a concerned citizen’s willingness to stand up for what is right, and make a simple phone call.
September 2015 - Senior Conservation Officer Chad Wipperman, Salmon Region
During the September 2015 archery season some ranchers were moving cattle when they stumbled upon a large dead bull elk that looked like it had been shot with a rifle. The ranchers knew immediately there was a problem because (1) it was archery season, (2) the elk wasn’t field dressed, and (3) it was left to waste. The rancher made the call to the Salmon Fish and Game office to report the dead elk.
Senior Conservation Officers Chad Wippermann and Zac Sedlmayr responded to the call. The rancher led the officers to the dead elk where they found boot prints that were not from the rancher. The officers figured the boot prints most likely belonged to the elk shooter.
Before officers Wippermann and Sedlmayr could locate possible suspects, their priority was to salvage the elk meat so it could be used by the community. Officer Wippermann called on Regional Investigator Andy Smith and Officer Matt Sheppard to assist while he and Officer Sedlmayr moved the elk carcass to a local meat processor. Because the elk was killed near private property, the officers believed the shooter might live nearby.
Officers Smith and Sheppard started knocking on doors and soon found themselves at James Wagner’s house in Baker, Idaho, which is less than one mile from where the elk was found dead. Wagner denied shooting an elk that morning but admitted he was up in the area where the bull elk was killed. The officers checked Wagner’s boots but the tread was different than what was found around the dead elk. At that time, Wagner also denied changing boots.
Shortly after their initial contact, Wagner did admit to killing the bull elk. He agreed to show the officers where he shot from but then couldn’t remember exactly where that was. Wagner did claim he was shooting at a cow elk and that he “might have” changed his boots when he got home. Eventually officers were able to recover the hidden boots Wagner was wearing when he shot the elk. The boot tread matched the prints found around the bull elk.
Wagner was convicted by a jury for taking a bull elk with a rifle during archery season and possession of an unlawfully taken elk. Wagner was sentenced to a $630 fine, $1000 civil penalty, and he lost his hunting privileges for two years.
September 2015 - Senior Conservation Officer Lauren Lane, Upper Snake Region
On September 17th I spent most of the day checking archery hunters along the Continental Divide and returned home in the late afternoon just before a big storm rolled through the valley. At about 8:45 PM I received a call from the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline.
The reporting party heard an elk bugle and then a rifle shot (during an archery only hunt), and then saw elk running from the area. The reporting party had left just a half hour earlier, and there was only one other vehicle parked in the area. I ran the license plate information provided and it returned to Timothy Brown from Island Park.
I was quickly out the door again and driving on the Red Road back to the Divide. On my way I contacted Senior Conservation Officer Chris Johnson and Regional Conservation Officer Doug Petersen for assistance.
It was dark by the time I got to the Yale-Kilgore road, and no vehicles were in the area. RCO Petersen and SCO Johnson were in Island Park looking for Brown’s vehicle. SCO Johnson then reported seeing Brown’s vehicle back at his residence and watched him hook an ATV trailer up to his truck. We made the assumption that Brown had killed an animal and would be returning to pick it up at any time. If there was an illegal animal to transport, he would likely return during the night, so we set up on separate entry points to the road and waited for him to head back to the area.
I sat on a dark corner so I wouldn’t be spotted, and I was happy to find a handful of pretzels and extra water in my truck, the radio kept me from falling asleep. As the morning came around, hunters started making their way back up the roads. One vehicle stopped, it was the reporting party, “You caught him yet?”, “No, not yet” I said.
Around 8 AM, SCO Johnson reported that Brown had left his residence and was headed our direction. I watched the road as Brown drove by pulling his ATV trailer. SCO Johnson and RCO Petersen changed locations and watched Brown load an elk onto his ATV trailer. A landowner approached them and said that Brown had trespassed on their property to hunt. Once Brown was on the road again heading back to his residence I pulled him over because we had reason to believe the elk he was transporting had been shot with a rifle during archery season.
After looking at the elk it was clear that it had been shot with a rifle. Brown denied shooting the elk with a rifle, and said he had shot it with a bow (later he changed his story and stated that he had tagged and transported the wrong elk).
After collecting additional evidence and interviews, Brown was charged with trespassing to hunt and taking a big game animal with a rifle during archery season. Brown was later sentenced to unlawfully possessing a big game animal and received a hunting and trapping license revocation for three years, $821 in fines, and jail time.
Thanks to Citizens Against Poaching and the reporting party, another case was made which would have otherwise been undetected.
November 2015 - Senior Conservation Officer Lauren Lane, Upper Snake Region
On November 15th, 2015 Senior Conservation Officer Lauren Lane was contacted by an employee from Matt’s Custom Meats in St. Anthony regarding two suspicious deer that had been brought in for processing.
The following investigation uncovered a number of fish and game violations that had taken place over multiple years. As a result of interviews and a cell phone search warrant, officers discovered the suspect had unlawfully taken at least four mule deer and two elk from the Big Hole Mountains near Rexburg and Sand Creek Desert just outside of St. Anthony.
In November of 2014 the suspect Eliseo Ramirez-Angeles shot a mule deer buck without a tag, and in 2015 the suspect shot two mule deer bucks and one mule deer doe without tags. Additionally, the suspect shot a bull elk without a tag in 2015, and a cow elk in 2011 without a tag during the closed season.
Ramirez-Angeles was charged with a felony in Fremont County for unlawfully possessing four mule deer, and two misdemeanors in Madison County for unlawfully possessing two elk.
On April 26th, 2016 the suspect pled guilty to felony charges in Fremont County for unlawfully taking three mule deer in 2015. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment, which was suspended, and four years felony probation. Terms of probation include a $1000 criminal fine plus court fees, $2800 in civil penalties, 100 hours community service, 42 days in the county jail, and a license revocation for hunting, fishing, and trapping for 10 years. Due to the Wildlife Violator Compact (WVC), the license revocation will also be upheld in thirty-nine other WVC member states. The WVC “Provides for the reciprocal recognition of the suspension of license privileges by participating states. The reciprocal recognition of suspensions is intended to address the problems associated with the mobility of many violators”. The charges in Madison County were dismissed.
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game employs just over 100 officers to patrol the entire state of Idaho. An average patrol area contains over 1,000 square miles of mountains, rivers, forest, and desert. As a result, officers rely heavily on the public to call if any suspicious activity is observed. We appreciate any help we receive from the public, because every call counts. If you do wish to “Make The Call”, you can remain anonymous by calling 1-800-632-5999.
Idaho is a member of the Wildlife Violator Compact, which means that if an individual’s hunting, fishing or trapping license is revoked by any of the 42 member states; all the remaining states will revoke the same license or privilege for the same time period.
Anyone with information about a wildlife violation are encouraged to “Make the Call” and contact the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous, and they may be eligible for a reward.