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Charges filed in wildlife scheme that illegally killed Utah mountain lions and bobcats

A Colorado big game outfitter and his assistant have been charged in a 17-count indictment for their practice of illegally capturing and maiming mountain lions and bobcats — many of which were in Utah — as part of a scheme to make hunting easier for their clients.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are announcing the indictments of outfitter Christopher W. Loncarich, 55, of Mack, Colorado and his assistant guide Nicholaus J. Rodgers, 30, of Medford, Oregon for allegedly conspiring to lead clients on illegal hunts in western Colorado and Utah between 2007 and 2010.

According to the indictment, the pair is accused of illegally capturing and caging cougars and bobcats, often incapacitating them by shooting them in the paws or otherwise limiting their mobility. Then, with the aid of radio communications, the outfitters brought their clients to the area where the maimed or restrained animal was released, ensuring a kill for their clients.

"These are very serious accusations that these men are facing," said Ron Velarde, Northwest Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife. "If they are found guilty of these charges, it is easily among the worst cases I have seen in my 40-plus years in wildlife management.".

The indictment also states that Loncarich and Rodgers took several clients on illegal hunts in Utah without the proper tags. They would then bring the cats’ hides back to Colorado to 'check-in' with CPW using falsified records to obtain the required seals. Many of the hides were transported to the clients’ home states, a violation of the Lacey Act, which is a federal law prohibiting the transportation of illegally taken wildlife across state lines.

To date, four assistant guides have also pleaded guilty to offenses arising from the conspiracy.

"This time-intensive investigation involved wildlife law-enforcement professionals from Colorado, Utah and from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of ethical outdoorsmen everywhere,” states Tony Wood, Law Enforcement Chief with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

Like all regulated hunting activities, cougar and bobcat hunting are conducted with population management as a priority. Wildlife officials stress the importance of ethical hunting and keeping to the tenets of fair chase, ethics and established hunting rules and regulations.

"It is critical that everyone understands that what these men are accused of is not hunting, it is criminal activity," said CPW Area Wildlife Manager JT Romatzke.

If you see a wildlife violation in Utah, please call the UTiP Hotline at 1-800-662-3337. Rewards may be available and requests for confidentiality are honored.

An indictment is an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The case was investigated by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement. It is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division.

  • U.S. Dept. of Justice Press Office

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