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Multi-Agency Effort Disrupts Illegal Hunting Ring: Serial Burglar Apprehended

In a coordinated effort involving multiple law enforcement agencies, the Hiawassee Police Department successfully dismantled an illegal hunting ring led by a serial burglar, James Leech. While Leech’s arrest was initially sought for his involvement in numerous burglaries, the discovery of extensive illegal hunting activities added a new dimension to the case. Chief Jeremy Parker emphasized the significance of inter-agency collaboration in uncovering and addressing such criminal enterprises.

For law enforcement officials, apprehending James Leech was akin to unraveling a complex web of criminal activities. Known for his involvement in multiple burglaries, Leech had evaded capture until a breakthrough collaboration with the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office in South Carolina provided vital information. Armed with detailed descriptions of the suspect and his vehicle, Hiawassee Police swiftly identified Leech, leading to the execution of a search warrant at his residence.

Discovery of Illegal Hunting Operations

The search of Leech’s property uncovered not only stolen goods from previous burglaries but also evidence of extensive illegal hunting activities. Dozens of wings from native birds of prey raised red flags, prompting the involvement of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Further investigation revealed a pattern of illegal hunting practices, implicating Leech in wildlife poaching and environmental violations.

The collaboration between law enforcement agencies extended beyond the recovery of stolen property to the disruption of an illegal hunting ring. By pooling resources and sharing information, authorities were able to trace Leech’s involvement in wildlife-related crimes across state lines. Surveillance footage and forensic evidence further strengthened the case against him, laying the groundwork for his prosecution.

On May 9, Cobb County Police apprehended Leech after a hit on his car from an Automated License Plate Reader. Facing a litany of charges, including wildlife poaching and environmental offenses, Leech’s arrest marked a significant victory for law enforcement. Chief Parker underscored the importance of holding individuals accountable for illegal hunting activities, which not only endanger wildlife but also undermine conservation efforts.

The successful disruption of James Leech’s illegal hunting ring highlights the effectiveness of collaborative efforts among law enforcement agencies. Beyond apprehending a serial burglar, authorities uncovered a broader network of wildlife-related crimes, ranging from poaching to environmental violations. As communities grapple with the threat of illegal hunting and wildlife exploitation, inter-agency cooperation remains essential in safeguarding natural resources and preserving biodiversity. The case serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of law enforcement personnel in upholding environmental laws and protecting vulnerable ecosystems.

What do you think of law enforcement efforts to end illegal hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Featured

Ohio’s Gobblers Facing Harder Times

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Spring turkey season results suggest that Ohio’s gobbler hunters might be facing tougher times. While the situation isn’t dire yet, any hopes for a quick rebound to the bountiful days of the past remain unfulfilled.

The 2024 spring turkey season concluded last Sunday in 83 South Zone counties, including central Ohio. The Ohio Division of Wildlife reported a total harvest of 15,426 turkeys, which is a slight decrease from last year’s total of 15,550. This year’s total includes birds taken during the statewide youth season in April, 30 days of hunting in the South Zone, and the first 23 days of hunting in the Northeast Zone. Hunting in the five Northeast Zone counties (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull) ends at sunset this Sunday.

Although the 2024 numbers are an improvement over the alarming results of 2021 (14,546) and 2022 (11,872), they still fall short of the more prolific years. For instance, the 2018 spring take was 22,612, and the 2017 take was 21,096. From 2000 to 2010, the spring harvest exceeded 20,000 birds eight times, peaking at 26,156 in 2001.

In 1993, the Ohio Division of Wildlife introduced a two-bird limit in the 42 open counties, although the second permit initially cost double the price of the first. This premium was dropped by 2003. The two-bird limit remained until 2022 when the declining turkey population led to a reduction in the spring limit to a single bird for the first time in almost 30 years.

Some have suggested eliminating the fall turkey season or imposing restrictions on targeting hens to help the population recover. However, the wildlife division has maintained a short fall season and continues to allow the harvest of a single turkey of either sex.

An ongoing research project in Ohio aims to track changes in wild turkey habits and examine the potential effects of environmental conditions. The goal is to identify measures that could enhance survival rates. Falling turkey populations are a common worry among both gobbler advocacy groups and state and local wildlife agencies nationwide.

Of the 83 counties where the turkey hunting season has ended, Belmont led with 451 birds checked, followed closely by Monroe and Tuscarawas, each with 447. Among central Ohio counties, Licking finished top with 255 birds, followed by Fairfield (91), Delaware (78), Union (44), Franklin (17), Pickaway (14), and Madison (4).

Leave your thoughts about the situation in Ohio in the comments below. 

 

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Hunting

The Ethical Considerations of Using Snares and Traps for Hunting

Hunting has long been a controversial topic, with ethical considerations playing a significant role in the debate. While some argue that hunting is a necessary activity for the management of wildlife populations and the conservation of habitats, others raise concerns about the impact it has on animal welfare and morality.

One controversial aspect of hunting that often raises ethical questions is the use of snares and traps. These devices are commonly used by hunters to catch and kill animals, either for sport or for food. However, the use of snares and traps has led to widespread criticism from animal rights activists and conservationists who argue that these methods are inhumane and cruel.

One of the main ethical concerns surrounding the use of snares and traps for hunting is the suffering that animals endure when caught in these devices. Snares and traps are often designed to trap animals by catching them around the neck, limbs, or body, leading to injury, suffocation, and death in some cases. The prolonged suffering and pain experienced by animals caught in snares and traps raise questions about the morality of using these devices for hunting.

Another ethical consideration to take into account is the indiscriminate nature of snares and traps. Unlike other hunting methods that require skill and precision, snares and traps can easily catch unintended targets, including non-target species and endangered animals. This indiscriminate trapping can lead to the unnecessary suffering and death of innocent animals, as well as disrupt the balance of ecosystems and threaten endangered species.

Furthermore, the use of snares and traps can also have negative impacts on animal populations and biodiversity. Overuse of these devices can lead to the depletion of wildlife populations, disrupting food chains and ecosystems. This can have cascading effects on other species and the overall health of the environment.

In response to these ethical concerns, some jurisdictions have implemented regulations and restrictions on the use of snares and traps for hunting. These regulations often include guidelines on the types of snares and traps that can be used, as well as rules on the placement and checking of traps to minimize the suffering of trapped animals.

Ultimately, the ethical considerations of using snares and traps for hunting underscore the importance of responsible and ethical hunting practices. Hunters should consider the welfare of animals, the impact on ecosystems, and the conservation of wildlife populations when deciding on hunting methods. By prioritizing ethical considerations and adopting sustainable hunting practices, hunters can help ensure the long-term viability of wildlife populations and the preservation of our natural environment.

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Five Years After Supreme Court Decision, Tribal Hunting Rights Still Murky

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Nearly five years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision recognizing the treaty-based hunting rights of Native American tribes. Despite this, many legal and policy questions regarding where, when, and if certain Native Americans are bound by state hunting regulations remain unresolved. Two months ago, a lower federal court issued an order related to tribal elk hunting in the Bighorns, but the clarity hunters and tribal members hoped for remains elusive.

Observers expected that lingering legal questions would be resolved through various court cases. However, Wyoming’s decision to drop charges in the partially remanded Herrera v. Wyoming case has left many issues unresolved. This decision has unexpectedly elevated the importance of another case dating back to 1989, involving Thomas Ten Bear, a member of the Crow Tribe, who was convicted of elk poaching in the Bighorns. Like the Herrera case, Ten Bear’s situation revolves around the prosecution of Crow Tribal members for killing elk in a national forest in Wyoming without a state-issued permit.

Ten Bear’s Case and the Supreme Court Precedent

Years before the Supreme Court’s Herrera ruling, Ten Bear sought to have his nearly 35-year-old poaching conviction overturned. With the new precedent in place, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson issued a 27-page order in late March, partially granting Ten Bear and the Crow Tribe’s requests for relief. Johnson’s decision clarified some key legal questions, establishing that statehood admission does not abrogate treaty rights and that the creation of a national forest does not render the land “occupied,” thus not nullifying the Crow Tribe’s treaty hunting rights.

Despite these clarifications, significant questions remain about off-reservation hunting. There are ambiguities about when portions of a national forest—or any land—can be considered “occupied” and thus off-limits to treaty-based tribal hunting. Additionally, questions about “conservation necessity”—the conditions under which the state could regulate or prevent tribal hunting outside of reservation boundaries—are still unanswered.

Judge Johnson’s ruling was specific to Ten Bear’s case and did not provide broad answers to these complex issues. The limits of what a court can definitively resolve were evident in his narrow approach, which left many aspects of off-reservation hunting rights open to interpretation and further negotiation.

A Call for Agreement

Cheyenne attorney David Willms believes that Wyoming and tribal residents with treaty hunting rights still lack a clear blueprint for resolving off-reservation tribal hunting. Judge Johnson’s ruling suggested that the state and tribes should work together to strike a balance between treaty-based rights and state sovereignty over natural resources. The Supreme Court’s Herrera v. Wyoming ruling also implied that these two aspects are “necessarily compatible.”

In the five years since the Herrera decision, there has been one significant legislative effort in Wyoming to make off-reservation hunting compatible with state regulations. During the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session, a tribal agreement bill was introduced, granting the governor the authority to negotiate state-tribal pacts for off-reservation hunting and angling seasons outside of Game and Fish Department regulations.

However, the bill faced opposition from tribes like the Shoshone-Bannock, who argued that they were excluded from the drafting process and that the bill was too prescriptive, violating their sovereignty. The legislation ultimately died, leaving tribal hunting rights unresolved and further complicating state-tribal relations.

Since the legislative effort failed, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has maintained that tribal members without standard permits can be cited for off-reservation hunting violations. Meanwhile, Montana has taken a different approach, instructing its wardens not to cite Crow Tribe members who violate state hunting laws, reflecting a more lenient stance on treaty rights.

Despite the legal and legislative deadlock, Wyoming officials remain hopeful for a negotiated agreement. Governor Mark Gordon emphasized the need for government-to-government negotiations with the tribes to mutually agree on off-reservation hunting, considering it a more positive and productive approach than litigation.

Towards a Resolution

Resolving these issues outside of the courtroom appears to be the best path forward. Both sides need to find common ground and address the concerns that have previously derailed efforts. Lessons from past negotiations, particularly the importance of inclusive and respectful dialogue, are crucial for future success.

The hope is that, with time, both the state and the tribes will be ready to re-engage in discussions and develop a framework that honors treaty rights while ensuring sustainable wildlife conservation. As the dust settles, there is cautious optimism that an agreement can be reached, benefiting both tribal members and the broader community.

What do you think of the legal issues surrounding tribal hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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