Crane Lake Trapper Faces Eight Years in Jail
A Minnesota trapper faces eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines for a variety of natural resources and other serious violations. James Andrew Brattrud, 30, of Buyck, made his initial court appearance Friday, Jan.13, in St. Louis County District Court in Hibbing.
Brattrud has been charged with possession of a short barreled shotgun, maximum sentence of five years in jail and/or $10,000; possession of a pistol without a permit, maximum sentence of one year and/or $3,000; possession of prohibited wild animal (eight fisher/pine marten), maximum sentence one year and/or $3,000; wanton waste of a protected wild animal, 90 days and/or $1,000 fine; taking small game without a license, 90 days and/or $1,000; over-limit of bass and northern pike, 90 days and/or $1,000; and failure to have a license, as required by the game and fish laws, to mount specimens of wild animals, 90 days and/or $1,000.
No trial date has been set.
In January 2003, Minnesota Conservation Officer Troy Fondie of Orr received a complaint of a dog caught in a snare in the Crane Lake area. Fondie located snare sites of Brattrud, who denied catching the dog.
Fondie documented violations committed by Brattrud, including failure to tend snares daily and no identification affixed to snares.
Follow-up investigation in February at Brattrud's taxidermy shop found multiple records- keeping violations, including black bear hides in his possession without hunter identification and license number recorded.
A large number of furbearing animals were stacked on top of the freezer in the porch. There were also furbearing animals inside the kitchen area, including muskrat, pine marten, red fox, weasel and red squirrel in different stages of decay.
Fondie also noted several snares that had what appeared to be fisher hair on the cables. Fisher season had closed in December. Brattrud said the fisher were accidentally killed while attempting to release them. The following day Brattrud turned over four illegal fisher to the officer.
Minnesota law says a person may not possess or transport a fisher, otter, pine marten, fox, bobcat, lynx or gray wolf that was accidentally killed until the person notifies the local conservation officer, other authorized DNR employee, or the regional enforcement office of the killing and receives authorization to possess, transport or skin the animal.
In February 2003, Fondie received information from the St. Louis County Sheriff's Department regarding a complaint from someone who had failed to receive a fisher they had bought from Brattrud.
Brattrud's small game privileges were revoked in March 2003 after being convicted of having no identification on snares and failure to tend snares daily.
Fondie requested the DNR's Special Investigations Unit assist in the investigation of Brattrud's trapping activities.
During the early phase of the investigation conducted on Sept. 19, 2003, Brattrud guided two conservation officer investigators on a black bear hunt in the Buyck area. At that time, Brattrud was a licensed DNR bear hunter's guide.
On the second day of the guided hunt, the officers were shown where the bear baits were stored. They also observed a broken freezer in the building that reeked of decaying bear hides and other decomposed wild animals that were unidentifiable. Officers also noticed several decomposing beaver and raccoon carcasses on the floor of a nearby fur shed. Violations were documented and, based upon additional information received that indicated Brattrud was violating terms of his small game license revocation, the investigation was extended into the trapping season.
During the open trapping season in December 2003 and December 2004, the officers documented Brattrud trapping in violation of his revocation status, which included the taking of eight fisher/pine marten over the limit. The current harvest limit for fisher/marten is five animals combined. The decomposed remains of a red fox were also found in one of the many traps Brattrud had set in the area.
On Dec. 11, 2004, Fondie contacted Brattrud in the woods south of Crane Lake again setting snares without the required identification on them. Brattrud was cited for the offense and convicted on Jan. 5, 2005. This violation, along with violations in 2003, again resulted in his small game privileges being revoked.
Based upon the evidence collected and personal observations by conservation officers, a search warrant was served on Brattrud's residence on Jan. 26, 2005. Conservation officers subsequently seized two whole and spoiled white-tailed deer taken during the 2003 Minnesota firearm deer season; nine whole bass, which exceeded the state limit of six; one whole northern pike and northern pike fillets totaling one fish over the limit; and one illegal short-barreled shotgun.
On April 4, 2005, conservation officers returned to the Buyck area where they believed traps and snares set by Brattrud still remained active during closed season. The officers were able to locate the decomposed remains of several pine marten, otter and muskrat still in the traps and snares.