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Three under arrest for killing four moose illegally

Dec 11, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Three people were arrested this week in connection with the four moose that were found poached in October north of Hudson on private land within the boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation.

Officials said Phillip "Rocky" Hurtado, 73, of Arapahoe; Sammy Edlund, 29, of Gillette; and Danielle Najera, 28, of Gillette each were issued the same misdemeanor charges: two counts each for taking antlered moose without a license during a closed season, two counts each of wanton destruction of a big game animal, and two counts each of waste of an edible portion of a game animal.

The moose in question included two bulls and two cows that were shot and left in the Hudson area Oct. 15.

Trespass to hunt charges also are pending, and officials said an arrest warrant has been issued for a fourth suspect who is believed to be from the reservation.

Fremont County Court staff said Hurtado made his initial appearance in front of a judge Monday after being arrested this weekend. He reportedly pleaded not guilty; a jury trial is set for April.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department information specialist Rene Schell said Najera was arrested Monday, and Edlund -- Najera's boyfriend -- turned himself in soon afterward. They likely will appear in court this week. Schell believes either Najera or Edlund are related to Hurtado; she said officials are "pursuing" the fourth suspect.

Background

According to previous reports, the poaching investigation started with an anonymous tip from the public. Game warden Chris Daubin said he responded to the report and found the carcasses of two male and two female moose lying near one another along the Popo Agie River northeast of Hudson on private land within reservation boundaries. He said it appeared they had been shot that same day.

Lander area game warden Brad Hovinga said moose are "one of the most highly valued species in Wyoming." He said penalties could include up to one year in jail and a $10,000 fine for each poached moose.

Wyoming allows moose hunting, but Schell said the animals near Hudson were slain by people without licenses and in an area closed to moose hunting. She said the animals had recently begun to populate an area that had not seen moose for 10 to 15 years.

The four moose may have lived in the area since 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.

In her opinion, the biggest loss as a result of the poaching incident will be to the public.

"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."

The WGFD, Shoshone and Arapaho Tribal Fish and Game, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation collaborated for the investigation, which took place during the busiest week of the hunting season when many poaching calls were being reported.

Poaching reports may be made to the "STOP POACHING" Hotline: (877) WGFD-TIP or (307) 777-4330 for out-of-state "STOP POACHING" calls only. Violations may also be reported at the Lander game and fish office, 332-2688, or online at gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/enforcement/stoppoaching/submitTip.aspx.

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