From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 7, Number 35 - November 22, 2007
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Higher Number Of Poachers Being Apprehended
Most recent case involves high-speed chase and accident
by Trey Wilkinson

A report of possible poaching activity southeast of Pinedale Nov. 16 led to a high-speed chase, a roll-over accident and two Salt Lake City men being charged for taking a trophy mule deer out of season, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

According to the release, midmorning Nov. 16, a concerned citizen reported suspicious behavior near the old town site of Big Sandy to Game Warden John Hyde. The citizen helped Hyde search the area on foot, and they found a mule deer carcass sporting a 5-by-5, 28-inch-wide antler rack lying behind a large rock. Hyde put the scene under surveillance.

At approximately 5 p.m. a pick-up truck arrived and dropped off an adult male. After the truck departed, Hyde notified Pinedale Game Warden Brian Nesvik and reported the man walked to the area of the deer before fleeing on foot after possibly being detected.

“From what Game Warden Hyde led me to believe he was watching the deer and the man who approached the deer was near it for a second or two and then bolted,” Nesvik said.

According to the release, a few minutes later the truck returned to the scene. Hyde approached in his truck and told the occupants to pull off the road and exit the vehicle. The driver pulled to the side of the road and then fled at a high rate of speed. Hyde, the Lovell District game warden whowas working the area for winter range mule deer surveillance, pursued the suspects westbound on the Eastfork-Big Sandy Road. With Nesvik close behind, the suspects reached speeds upward of 50 miles per hour on the winding gravel road and lost the flat bed trailer they were towing. Approximately one mile later, the suspects lost control of their vehicle at a corner and rolled several times. The game wardens said it was amazing the two were able to walk away from the accident with only minor cuts and scrapes. The men received treatment at the scene and refused to be transported to the hospital. Nesvik obtained the cell phone number of the man originally dropped off near the deer carcass. The officer sent him a text message that his truck had been wrecked and to walk to the county road. The suspect complied bywalking out to the county road near a residence.

With the help of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, the men, who had been working as subcontractors on commercial construction projects in the Pinedale and Lander area, were interviewed, arrested and transported to the Sublette County Jail at approximately 8 p.m.

One of the officers on the scene from the SCSO, and, in fact, the first from the SCSO, was Sgt. Kevin Koessel. Deputy Nathan Gortemaker, who according to Koessel worked the accident, and Sgt. Brian Sparks also responded to the incident.

Koessel said he spoke briefly with the driver of the vehicle that rolled. “The driver just said to me that he shouldn’t have sped away,” Koessel said. “There are some sharp curves on that road. People should take those curves at about 15 or 20 miles per hour and only drive 30 to 35 miles per hour on the rest of the road.”

Koessel said this was the first time he’s been involved in a high-speed chase that dealt directly with a possible poaching incident.

“Speeding away once you’ve been confronted is never a good idea,” he said. “It endangers the people in the vehicle, the public and others. And poaching is never a good thing. It infringes on anyone’s rights.”

Nesvik said he couldn’t comment on what was said after the accident at this time, but said thiswas the first time he had been involved in a high-speed chase relating to possible poaching incident that resulted in an accident.

“I’ve been in a couple (chases) in my career, but none that resulted in an accident,” he said. “Across the department this type of thing doesn’t happen very often.” GregoryL. Carter, 48,was charged with taking an antlered mule deer out of season, shooting from a vehicle and trespassing. Jeremy S. Zumwalt, 30, who was driving the pick-up, was charged as an accessory to the crime and interference with a peace officer. The officers suspect a .22-250 caliber rifle, a caliber not authorized for big game hunting in Wyoming, was used in the crime. The passenger of the vehicle was not charged.

Carter and Zumwalt were released from jail the evening of Nov. 18 after posting bond. Both suspects are scheduled to appear for arraignment on Dec. 13 in the Sublette County Circuit Court in Pinedale. The officers remind everyone that all suspects are presumed innocent until convicted in a court of law.

“Just going off memory, but you’d have to check with Game and Fish, poaching incidents seem to have increased in recent years,” SCSO Lt. Hayes Randol said. “I think you can chalk that up to more people in the area.”

Randol said the SCSO does deal with “quite a few” poaching calls.

“We do respond to quite a few poaching or hunting on private property incidents,” he said. “We’re pretty proactive in enforcement with poaching. One of the things we do, especially during this time of the year, is check tags, check suspicious vehicles and check on hunters. We’re pretty vigilant on this type of thing.”

“The wild life out here belongs to everyone that lives here,” Randol added. “And people take it personally when these animals are being poached.” Nesvik said he couldn’t really say that poaching has increased, but said there has definitely been an increase in apprehension over the last few years. “This has been the third year in a row that we’ve apprehended people in over half the poaching incidents detected,” he said.

When asked if the energy production has anything to do with poaching in the area, Nesvik said nothing has been proven to tie any correlation between poaching and the energy production. According to Nesvik, a number of things are done during peak season for poaching, which is from the first part of November to the last part of December.

“We bring in people from outside the region to help us during this time of year. In fact, Hyde is out of Lovell,” Nesvik said. “We also talk to landowners and the media. You guys (the media) make a difference for us by getting this information out.” Nesvik also said there is the potential use of aerial surveillance.

“There is a lot of technology out there that we’d like to use that could help us put a better effort into preventing these incidents,” he said.

Anyone with information about a wildlife violation is encouraged to call the Stop Poaching Hotline at (877) WGFD-TIP. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction.

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