Oct 23, 2015

Man gets $7,540 bill for poaching deer on North Fork

A former Cody resident who poached a deer just east of Yellowstone National Park this spring has been ordered to pay $7,540 in fines and restitution. He also lost hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for three years.

Erik Rautenberg, 29, recently pleaded guilty in Park County Circuit Court to taking a buck mule deer out of season.

Erik Rautenberg had to spend a night in jail after poaching the deer. Photo courtesy Park County Sheriff's Office
Rautenberg reportedly shot the deer with his 9mm Glock pistol as it passed by his campsite near the Sam Berry Meadows, about three miles up the Pahaska Trail in the Shoshone National Forest.

He cooked a small piece of the buck’s backstrap, then left the rest to waste, a Wyoming Game and Fish Department investigation concluded.

“This was a case of a big game animal killed simply for the thrill of it and is the worst kind of wildlife violation we investigate,” Cody Region Game Warden Travis Crane said in a Wednesday statement from Game and Fish.

A former law enforcement officer and his wife happened to be passing by Rautenberg’s campsite at the time he killed the deer, hearing gunshots and seeing the man chase the buck up a hill on May 30. They contacted the Stop Poaching tip line.

Crane and Shoshone law enforcement officer Travis Hayworth confronted Rautenberg the following day, as he and his brother were heading back toward the trailhead.

Rautenberg initially denied shooting the deer, but admitted to it after Crane proceeded to the campsite and discovered the dead animal, according to charging documents.

Rautenberg described hitting the animal from about 50 yards away, then emptying his gun to try putting the deer down, Crane wrote in an affidavit used to support the charge.

“Erik (Rautenberg) advised that it was a dumb thing to do,” Crane recounted.

The warden arrested Rautenberg, who spent the night in jail before being released on his own recognizance the following day.

Game and Fish encourages anyone who witnesses a wildlife violation to call the Stop Poaching Hotline at 877-WGFD-TIP or report them at wgfd.wyo.gov. The more detailed the information is (such as the date, time and license plate number of any vehicles involved in the incident), the more helpful it is, according to Game and Fish.

Informants can remain anonymous and potentially can collect a cash reward of up to $5,000 if their information leads to a successful prosecution.

“The anonymous Stop Poaching tip from the public was instrumental in solving the case and sends a message that this type of violation will not be tolerated by the public,” Crane said in Wednesday’s statement.

Hayworth — the Shoshone officer — had also cited Rautenberg in Wyoming’s federal court for leaving a campfire that hadn’t been fully extinguished, failing to dispose of all garbage at the campsite and providing false information to a forest officer.

The three charges had carried a possible $1,750 in additional penalties, but after Rautenberg admitted to the poaching allegations in state court, Hayworth and the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to ask for the federal citations dismissed. A magistrate judge did so last week.


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