Natrona man fined for selling poached Wyoming game meat to sustain beef jerky business

(Tom Koerner/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

By Brendan Lachance

CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said on Monday that a Wyoming resident living on the Grazing Hills Ranch near Natrona who substituted poached game meat in order to sustain his beef jerky business has been ordered to pay $45,070 in fines and restitution after a plea agreement was reached in the case.

The jerky business sold products containing poached game meat to unsuspecting customers in Wyoming and online, according to Game and Fish.

The multi-year investigation began after a member of the public provided a tip through the “Stop Poaching Hotline” that alerted Game and Fish to possible wildlife crimes.

“The investigation revealed the suspect had been killing mule deer and pronghorn without licenses and during closed seasons,” Game and Fish said. “He then substituted big game meat for beef to sustain his jerky business. The business sold products to unsuspecting customers throughout Wyoming as well as online.”

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Game and Fish said that game wardens located multiple deer and pronghorn carcasses during the investigation.

“Investigators sent tissue and jerky samples from these animals to the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic Lab for DNA comparison,” the release adds. “Through this work, the lab was able to identify a combination of 18 unique mule deer and pronghorn antelope that were poached.”

Following the investigation, the man was arrested by wardens with assistance from Natrona County Sheriff’s Office deputies and was subsequently charged with 26 wildlife violations.

“In a plea agreement reached with the state, the Natrona resident pleaded no contest to killing a buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season,” Game and Fish said. “He was also charged as an accessory to the killing of another buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season. The plea agreement also included two counts of wanton destruction of big game animals and three counts of selling game meat. In exchange for his no-contest plea, the District Attorney dismissed the remaining charges.”

In addition to the $45,070 in fines and restitution, the man has had his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges suspended for a minimum of five years. He is also not eligible to hunt in Wyoming or the other 48 states that are members of the Wildlife Violator Compact until his restitution is paid in full.