Guide sentenced for maiming cats in Bookcliffs
DENVER — A wildlife guide has been sentenced to six months home confinement, a $5,000 fine, 50 hours of community service and three years’ probation for illegally capturing and maiming mountain lions and bobcats to make hunts easier for clients by shooting the cats in the paws or legs or attaching leg traps to hold them.
Nicholaus Rodgers, of Shady Cove, Oregon, pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits the interstate sale of wildlife taken in violation of state regulations.
Rodgers worked as an assistant hunting guide for Loncarich Guides and Outfitters.
Christopher Loncarich, Rodgers’ employer, was a big game outfitter and hunting guide who owned Loncarich Guides and Outfitters and operated primarily in west central Colorado on the border with Utah.
According to federal and state authorities, Loncarich outfitted and guided mountain lion and bobcat hunts in the rugged Bookcliffs Mountains, which run along the Colorado-Utah border north and west of Grand Junction.
Investigators say they found more than 15 clients who had taken part in the illegal killing of more than 30 mountain lions and bobcats.
Clients paid Loncarich up to $7,500 for each mountain lion hunt and Loncarich would then share the proceeds with his assistant guides. Rodgers admitted to personally assisting clients in unlawfully killing 11 mountain lions and five bobcats.
Loncarich, of Mack, Colorado, was sentenced to 27 months in prison and three years of probation for conspiracy.
“The disturbing conduct uncovered during the course of this investigation is a reminder that even today, poaching remains a threat to the wildlife populations,” Tony Wood, Law Enforcement Chief with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said in a statement issued Thursday.
“We hope this sentencing serves to deter those who are intent upon exploiting wildlife populations at the expense of present and future generations of ethical sportsmen and others who appreciate wildlife,” he said.
Several assistant guides got more lenient sentences.
Three hunting clients were issued notices for violations of the Lacey Act and paid a total of $ 13,100 in fines.
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Glenwood Springs’ officials continue to ask residents and visitors to use caution particularly around river access points within the city’s numerous parks.