Man Sentenced for Grabbing Antlers Before Habitat Area Opened
There has been an increased interest in shed antler hunting in recent years in Wyoming. Reports of wildlife harassment and unlawful entry into habitat areas by unethical antler hunters have increased. Ethical antler hunters have also complained of stolen opportunity by those individuals that don’t follow the law.
Game and Fish Department officers have stepped up efforts to enforce closures on the agency’s wildlife habitat management areas to help protect the wildlife that use these areas.
The result of this concerted effort and patience paid off when Randy L. Reece, 35, of Sheridan pleaded guilty May 3 in Sheridan County Court to violating a lawful order of the G&F Commission: human presence on a closed wildlife habitat management area.
Judge J. John Sampson fined Reece $400, assessed $30 in court costs and suspended his hunting privileges for one year. Reece was given a 90-day suspended jail sentence, six months probation and ordered not to go onto the Kerns WHMA during his probation. He was also ordered to forfeit the antlers he had taken from the closed area.
Gillette Game Warden Jason Sherwood was working surveillance early April 26, 2003 on the Kerns area north of Dayton, when he noticed 41 head of elk bolt out of a patch of timber. Sherwood then observed an adult male leave the timber keeping a low profile.
Sherwood relayed the information to Dayton Game Warden Alan Osterland. Later on that afternoon Sherwood and Osterland observed the man return to his vehicle with his 13-year-old son. The son was not charged in the case.
Osterland interviewed Reece and when asked what he was doing, Reece replied that he was looking for bear sign. Osterland explained that Reece was observed entering the closed habitat area and after G&F officials located the hidden, stockpiled antlers Reece confessed.
The antlers weighed approximately 135 pounds and are valued at about $1,000. Reece’s continued cooperation at this time was a factor that helped eliminate jail time during sentencing.
Osterland says, “The primary purpose of the wildlife habitat management areas is to provide secure winter range for elk, deer and other wildlife. Seclusion during the spring months is extremely important to elk and deer when they are heavy with young. Human caused stress can have a severe impact on the mothers as well as the unborn prior to calving.”
He adds, “Most people that use these areas respect the closures and the wildlife by following the rules. The areas are popular for hunting, fishing and hiking during summer and fall months.
“Ethical law-abiding people, including families with small children, wait until these areas open and wildlife have had a chance to disperse to their summer areas. Responsible antler hunters become very frustrated when antler poachers sneak into this areas, steal antlers and disturb wildlife.
“I’d really like to thank Officers Jason Sherwood and Terry Cram as well as G&F Investigator Scott Adell for their help on this and other antler poaching cases. Although wardens can be in the right place at the right time to witness a poaching incident such as this one, most cases are solved with information given to them by concerned citizens that report violations, suspicious activity and possible violations. Concerned citizens have provided valuable information on some of the antler poaching activities in this area.”
Adell adds, “Other suspects have been charged in relation to similar 2004 antler poaching offenses. Cases are pending in Sheridan Circuit Court.”