California Gets Three Generations of Poachers

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The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently closed a complicated poaching case involving three generations of a family from Williams.

Ronald Kemp, 74, Paul Kemp, 46, and Joseph Kemp, 20, were arrested by DFG wardens in January 2009 after a search warrant was executed on their home. Wardens discovered and seized four assault rifles, a stuffed curlew (a non-game bird), seven sets of deer antlers and various frozen meat packages.

Also found on the property were 47 goose tracking collars used to track the migratory flight patterns of snow geese, Ross' geese and Tule geese. The collars from the Tule geese were part of a joint conservation study by DFG and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and contained satellite transmitters that cost $5,000 apiece. The complete stash of collars found at the Kemps' residence represents 35 percent of all goose collars ever recovered by the state.

Because of the range of crimes discovered, DFG's overarching investigation required assistance from many fields of expertise - including scientists, biologists and wardens:

  • * Scientists from DFG's Wildlife Forensics Laboratory examined samples extracted from the meat and found DNA unique to 14 different male deer, none of which corresponded to the antlers found at the residence. The Kemps could not produce valid deer tags to correspond with the meat or the antlers.
  • * DFG waterfowl biologists cross-referenced the serial numbers of the 47 goose collars with existing data logs in order to verify when and where the signals from the collars were lost.
  • * Game wardens were able to combine the biologists' data with records of field observations of the Kemps' hunting activity, thus confirming that many of the birds had been killed during the closed season on or near properties belonging to the Kemps.

"This case exemplifies the complexity of the work involved in protecting fish and wildlife from a wide range of illegal activity. The forensics, scientific data collection techniques, and detective work were integral to the success of this case," said DFG Director Donald Koch. "Poaching of California's wildlife is always reprehensible, but this case also involved tampering with an important conservation study - which, ironically, is funded by the license and stamp fees paid by lawful hunters."

On May 27, 2009, the Kemps agreed to a plea bargain in Colusa County Superior Court, bringing the case to a close. Ronald Kemp pled guilty to obtaining a duplicate deer tag by fraud and taking and possessing an overlimit of deer. Paul Kemp pled guilty to one charge of taking a Tule Goose during the closed season, one deer violation relating to deer tags and one count of possession of an assault rifle. Joseph Kemp pled guilty to possessing assault rifles and failing to exhibit wildlife taken at the request of a game warden.

The grandfather, father and son were ordered to pay approximately $5,500 in fines and court costs. All three were placed on three years probation, the first year of which they are prohibited from hunting. All of the evidence was retained by DFG, at the order of the court.