Two Colorado big game hunting guides, Christopher Loncarich, 55, of Mack Colorado and his partner Nicolaus Rodgers of Shady Cove, Oregon, who were part of an outfitter's group of Western-slope guides that led expensive mountain lion hunts around the Book Cliffs Mountains on the Utah border are charged with 17 counts of violating Federal wildlife crimes.
The two are accused of trapping mountain lions in Utah between 2007 and 2009, bringing them across the border into Colorado to be hunted by clients (many of whom were unlicensed "poachers") paying between $3,500 and $7,500 each for the experience, and making sure the lions couldn't escape beforehand by wounding them in the leg or keeping them in place with a leg-hold snare.
Their arrest came about as part of a lengthy investigation by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife with assistance from the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife.
According to Dean Riggs with the Colorado Department of Parks and Wildlife "I would say this is probably one of the more egregious situations that I have seen in more than 20 years of doing this. We in society expect people to follow laws and to do this in a 'fair chase' sort of manner."
Mr. Rodger and four other members of the outfitting group have plead guilty to violating the Lacey Act. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, "the Lacey Act is a federal law that makes it illegal to knowingly transport or sell in interstate commerce any wildlife that has been taken or possessed in violation of state laws or regulations."
The maximum penalty for conspiring to violate the Lacey Act is up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Loncarich and Rodgers case may be an especially extreme one, but this type of crime is not unheard of in the U.S. Last month the Oregonian reported that Bend, Oregon resident Alan Aronson and his wife were two of 23 people arrested by the Oregon State Police in a massive poaching investigation.
Aronson admitted that he had been "taking people on illegal hunts for elk and buffalo on another person's ranch without the owner's consent," didn't have a license to run that type of business, and that many of his paying customers didn't even have licenses to hunt.