Two Buffalo residents have been fined and will lose their hunting privileges for the foreseeable future in connection to a 2019 case where a bull elk was killed illegally, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) said Tuesday.
Christopher Morales and Keisha Filbert have both been convicted of wildlife violations stemming from an anonymous report to the WGFD that claimed Morales killed a bull elk in September 2019, using a hunting license issued to Filbert.
The WGFD charged Morales in 2020 with illegally taking wildlife and Filbert for illegally transferring ownership of a hunting license following an investigation that spanned several months.
Upon receiving the anonymous report, wildlife investigators reportedly conducted an online investigation, which revealed photos of Morales and Filbert posing in camouflage clothing with two bull elk in 2019.
Morales claimed to have taken his own elk with a crossbow Sept. 6, adding that Filbert killed hers likewise Sept. 12, per the WGFD.
He denied shooting the second elk, stating that he had only tagged along during the second hunt, a story reportedly backed up by Filbert.
The anonymous report, however, stated that Morales was observed leaving the area alone on Sept. 13 with elk antlers on his vehicle, the morning after Filbert’s elk was reportedly killed, according to the WGFD.
Search warrants yielded a video of Morales’ hunt Sept. 6 and cell phone data that did not match the story, the WGFD stated, adding that Filbert’s phone signal did not place her in the area the day of the second hunt.
During her interview, Filbert was reportedly unable to answer questions regarding her hunt. Instead, she described details from a video recording taken by Morales during his hunt on Sept. 6, per the WGFD.
Wildlife investigators reportedly tracked the path taken by Morales the day the second elk was taken using his cell phone data, locating two elk skeletal remains that matched the geographic location of the elk depicted in Morales’ and Filbert’s pictures.
When she was interviewed a second time in August 2020, Filbert allegedly admitted that she did not take the elk and was not with Morales when it was killed.
The case recently concluded with the approval of plea agreements between the offenders and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office, approved by Circuit Court Judge Shelley Cundiff.
Per the plea agreements, Morales has been ordered to pay $5,000 in fines, $2,000 in restitution, and has forfeited his hunting privileges for three years for taking wildlife without a license.
Filbert lost her hunting privileges for two years and was ordered to pay a $400 fine for illegally transferring a hunting license.
The case displayed a great deal of effort to deceive game wardens during the investigation, Buffalo Game Warden Jim Seeman remarked, noting how Filbert dressed up in camouflage clothing to pose with the elk as if she had been the hunter.
“Thank you to the concerned sportspersons that started this investigation,” he added. “Many wildlife crimes are never detected because people do not pass information to the (WGFD). Honest sportspersons can make a big difference in protecting Wyoming’s wonderful wildlife resource by reporting violations to the Stop Poaching hotline.”