Oct 25, 2012 - By Eric Blom, Staff WriterFour suspects are under investigation for poaching four moose near Hudson on Oct. 15.
Wyoming Game and Fish, Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game, and the FBI collaborated to gather evidence and identify the suspects. Wyoming Game and Fish officials would not release details in the ongoing investigation, but the names of the suspects will be released once charges are filed.
Acting on an anonymous tip Oct. 15, Chris Daubin, the game warden for the south Riverton area, found the carcasses of two male and two female moose near each other along the Popo Agie River, just northeast of Hudson on private land within reservation boundaries. It appeared they had been shot that same day.
The investigation began immediately and grew to involve tribal Fish and Game, Lander and Riverton game wardens, the investigative unit of Wyoming Game and Fish, and the FBI. Roughly 10 individuals were involved in the investigation.
Lander area game warden Brad Hovinga said investigators do not know why poachers killed the moose. "Nothing was taken from the animals," Hovinga said. "They didn't salvage any meat."
He declined to comment on the investigation other than to say, "We've identified suspects and are processing the evidence. Once we've conferred with tribal Fish and Game, we'll decide on charges."
He explained that decisions had to be made jointly because the poaching happened on the reservation.
"Anything that happens within the boundaries of the reservation, we involve the tribal Fish and Game," Hovinga said. "The special thing about this investigation was the cooperation between agencies. That's what made this happen."
He added that cooperation was essential because the investigation happened during the busiest week of the hunting season.
"We were getting called on all sorts of poaching calls," Hovinga said.
Officials had to coordinate investigating those calls with the moose investigation.
Hovinga said that moose are considered big game, and penalties for poaching them can include a high misdemeanor. He described the crime as "the wanton destruction of moose."
"The moose is one of the most highly valued species in Wyoming," Hovinga said. "It's one of the most serious crimes against wildlife."
He added that penalties could range as high as one year in jail and a $10,000 fine for each poached moose.
Wyoming allows moose hunting, but the ones near Hudson were slain without licenses and in an area closed to moose hunting, said Game and Fish information and education specialist Rene Schell.
She said these animals had recently begun to populate an area that had not seen moose for 10 or 15 years. The four moose had lived in the area at least since the spring of 2012, she said, and probably arrived in the spring of 2011.
"One of the cows was last year's calf or the calf of the year before," Schell said. "The other cow probably birthed that calf."
The moose lived along the Popo Agie and had been seen on both sides of Hudson, Schell said. Moose typically live along waterways and have a home range of five to 10 square miles, she said.
The biggest loss will be to the public's enjoyment, Schell said.
"I've heard countless people say they enjoy seeing (the moose)," she said. "There are not a lot of moose in the area," and "it'll be awhile before they repopulate."
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