Five year Missouri poaching case against 46 ends in Federal Court

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. -- The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) recently wrapped up a major special investigation involving 46 individuals that began in 2008. Operation “Pulling Wool” came to a close on April 25 with a final conviction in Federal Court. The last defendant charged in the operation was found guilty by a United States Magistrate in Cape Girardeau.

All 46 defendants were found guilty by trial or plea in Federal Court for hunting deer with the aid of dogs on U.S. Forest Service property. The defendants paid a total of $67,425 in fines to the federal court for their actions. Another six defendants were charged with nine total violations in state court in Ripley County. These defendants paid a total of $1,909 in fines and court costs. The combined fines and costs paid by the defendants was $69,334. Additionally, hunting privileges of all the defendants were revoked for periods of one to three years.

“These convictions are a direct result of our mission to protect the fish, forests and wildlife of Missouri,” said Gary Cravens, MDC Protection Regional Supervisor for Ozark Region. “Missouri citizens have asked us to take on this mission, and putting a stop to illegal poaching activities, like deer dogging, helps to ensure Missouri remains a great place to hunt ethically.”

The investigation began in the fall of 2008, when the MDC’s special investigation unit set up an operation targeting illegal poaching activity that was occurring on the Mark Twain National Forest in Ripley County. MDC joined with the USFWS and the US Attorney’s office in St. Louis on operation “Pulling Wool” to stop the deer dogging activity. Deer dogging is illegal and is commonly found in Missouri’s Ozark country in the south-central part of the state. The practice includes using dogs to run deer toward shooters strategically set up at known deer crossings.

These shooters, also known as poachers, use marine band and CB radios to communicate with each other concerning the whereabouts of the dogs and any deer they are chasing. Coupled with the use of automobiles and all-terrain vehicles, deer dogging is an effective and extremely dangerous activity during Missouri’s fall firearms deer hunting seasons.

“Using dogs to hunt whitetails is an illegal and dangerous activity, which works against the majority of Missourians’ efforts to continue traditions of ethical hunting that are celebrated in our state,” said Cravens.

Cravens said most hunters in Missouri are ethical, law abiding citizens, who care deeply about conserving the state’s wildlife resources. One effective way citizens can assist MDC in stopping poaching activities is by reporting poaching activities to the state’s Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline. The toll-free number is 1-800-392-1111 and is staffed 24-hours a day. Callers may remain anonymous, and may ask to be considered for a reward, ranging from $50 to $1,000. More information about OGT can be found at