By JIM ABRAMS
Too often, poaching — illegally killing wildlife — is looked upon as something of a minor circumstance. Just as speeders bemoan that the local constabulary should be chasing drug dealers and murderers rather than their lead foot, some think that failing to tag a few deer is little more than a parking infraction and that shooting a red-tailed “chicken hawk” or road-shooting a coyote are services to society. Neither group understands all the potential consequences of their actions.
While the regulations governing our wildlife resources are there to protect some animals and to allow the controlled harvest of others, these laws aren’t flippantly set by bureaucrats. Specialized biologists monitor populations, reviewing the animal’s impacts both sociologically and physically while also trying to ensure a fair and equitable opportunity for hunters, anglers and wildlife watchers.
Wildlife officers across the nation work diligently to maintain that thin green line between those honest folks following the rules of fair chase and the scallywags that believe the ends always justify the means. While the courts sometimes have a difficult time determining appropriate penalties within the sentencing guidelines, too often the perpetrator is left with a public slap on the wallet and a quick run back to their idling pickup.
Sometimes a judge surfaces that’s had enough. On Oct. 17 in Sheridan County, Wyoming, Judge William Edelman approved the conditions of a plea agreement reached between the Sheridan County Attorney’s Office concerning one rapscallion who thought killing a few deer was no real big deal. He was real wrong.
Local resident Gregg Lambdin was busted last February after a two-month investigation by the state’s wildlife officers. The investigation began after a concerned person provided information to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department concerning possible illegal activity in the area.
While surveilling Lambdin’s lands and nearby property, an officer saw multiple deer carcasses and also witnessed Lambdin kill a deer. A search of license records showed that Lambdin hadn’t bothered to purchase a deer hunting permit either. Based on this compiled information, a search warrant was served in cooperation with the Sheridan County Sheriff’s Office. One antelope and 113 whitetail deer carcasses in varying stages of decomposition were documented.
He pleaded guilty on Aug. 1 to two misdemeanors and nine felonies for wanton destruction of big game animals and a sentencing hearing was set for mid-October. He was assessed $110,000 in fines, $144,000 in restitution and nine months jail time, which took effect immediately following the hearing. “It is likely the largest poaching case in Wyoming history in terms of penalties against a single individual,” said Game and Fish Regional Wildlife Supervisor Craig Smith.
Where will all that cash land? As required by Wyoming state statute, fines imposed for poaching cases are distributed to the public school fund of the county that the violation occurred in. The $144,000 restitution imposed by Judge Edelman will be placed into a fund used by the Game and Fish Commission for purchasing easements to provide access to public and private lands.
Not to be outdone, an Ohio man has also found his way into a courtroom that was fed up with illegal antics. In this case, Ronald Ison, of Hillsboro in Highland County, had a few tires that he needed to ditch.
I’ve seen this type of thing before and nabbed a number of folks who’d tossed tires over township bridges. Most were fined enough to force them to skip a meal or two, but the lesson was usually short-lived.
For Ison, the story has a different ending and it has everything to do with the more than 200 tires he dumped around the countryside. He pitched them in several areas including Rocky Fork State Park and Paint Creek Wildlife Area. Some were also dumped on a township roadway, which were then hit by a school bus full of kids, resulting in the bus being disabled.
Following an intensive multi-jurisdictional investigation, he pleaded guilty to seven counts of illegal open dumping of scrap tires and one count of illegal transportation of scrap tires. Ison will have the next four years in jail to think about the consequences of poor judgment and an apparently matching attitude. His next dumping will involve tossing $730 into the coffers of the local solid waste district to reimburse them for picking up his trash.
“This guy created a public safety hazard, trashed the public’s land and then forced the public to foot the bill to clean up his mess. This is where the rubber meets the road,” said Ohio Attorney General David Yost, whose staff prosecuted the case against Ison.
You can report poaching and other natural resource crimes in Ohio by calling or texting 1-800-POACHER (762-2437) or fill out a report online at wildlife.ohiodnr.gov and following the contacts links.
“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” — Benjamin Franklin
Along the way:
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) — a fatal neurological disease — has been detected in Michigan, prompting Ohio’s Division of Wildlife to step up its surveillance efforts in northwest Ohio. Hunters in Lucas, Fulton and Williams counties are being asked to submit samples of harvested deer for testing. Participation is voluntary and free of charge.
Hunters will need to remove the head approximately 4 inches below the bottom jawbone and drop it off at any one of 12 collection stations. A kiosk at each site provides instructions on how to submit the head. A specimen number will be provided, which can be used to check the outcome. Results will also be available at wildohio.gov
Only adult deer harvested from Lucas, Fulton and Williams counties will be accepted. Fawns and deer sent to a taxidermist won’t be tested. The drop-off locations are:
• Lucas County: Cleland’s Outdoor World, Swanton; Spencer Township Fire Department, Holland; Mallard Club Marsh Wildlife, Oregon; Magee Marsh Wildlife Area Check Station, Oak Harbor.
• Fulton County: Pettisville Community Park, Pettisville; ODNR Rest Area, Lyons; Maumee State Forest Headquarters, Swanton; Franklin Township Garage, Archbold.
• Williams County: Lake La Su An Wildlife Area Headquarters, Pioneer; Williams County Fairgrounds, Montpelier; Florence Township Building, Edon; Pulaski Township Garage, Bryan.
Hunters outside of these counties can submit a deer for testing at the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory for a small fee. Call 614-728-6220 for more information.
• Have you or someone you know ever considered becoming a wildlife officer? Ever wonder what it takes to get the job? Are you in high school or college and would like to plan for a career that matters? Visit www.gamewarden.org. Your path to the future may begin there.
• As of Oct. 22, hunters have killed 21,263 whitetails, while last year during that time 19,626 had been taken. This equates to about an 8 percent increase in harvest.
• Today and Sunday: Tri-state gun collectors show, Allen County Fairgrounds, 2750 Harding Highway, Lima.
• Sunday: Trap shoot, 1 p.m., Mount Blanchard Gun Club, 21655 Delaware Township 186. The club is holding a fundraiser raffle for several great prizes. Tickets are available from club officers or at TNT Firearms, 1301 Lima Ave.
• Nov. 6: Free deer processing workshop, 6-9 p.m., Antwerp Conservation Club, 17814 Road 53, Antwerp. This hands-on event includes field dressing, skinning and butchering. Preregistration is required by Tuesday at https://apps.ohiodnr.gov/wildlife/educationregistration
• Nov. 7-8: Trap and skeet, open to the public, 5 p.m., UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243.
• Nov. 9: Bird dog demo and shotgun shooting, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Fairfield County Bird Dog Club, 6621 Miller Siding Road, Rushville. Learn about bird dog training, hunting, matching gun to game, and get an overview of gear. Contact Tony Zerkle at 740-739-7661.
• Nov. 14: Ohio Community Wildlife Cooperative Conference, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center, 2201 Fred Taylor Drive, Columbus. Explore the role of local government in managing human-wildlife conflict. Topics include: coyotes; turkeys — the next urban nuisance species; natural spaces in cities; raptors; media relations; and zoonotic diseases. Register at https://go.osu.edu/ocwc2019
• Hunter and trapper education class listings: Nov. 18, 19, 20, Fostoria United Sportsman, 1324 Springville St., Fostoria. Information and registration information available at http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org