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Wyoming Man Cited For Snaring Deer

January 18, 2008.

From the Wyoming Game and Fish Department:

Attempting to snare coyotes and bobcats, a Dubois man's snares killed at least 16 deer from 2003-06 and he was recently convicted for the violations.

Robert Charles Johnsen, 57, was fined $1,600 for eight counts of taking a deer without a license with his snares. In addition, Circuit Court Judge Robert Denhardt revoked Johnson's privilege to obtain a trapping license for five years and his privilege to use snares for 24 years, plus ordered him to forfeit his trapping equipment — 271 leg-hold traps and 127 snares — to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The case started in the winter of 2003, when Johnsen contacted Dubois Game Warden Cole Thompson that he'd accidentally killed a deer in his snare. Over the next two years Johnson reported five more deer killed in his snares. Thompson did not cite Johnson, but urged him to adjust his snaring practices, such as moving his snares from deer trails and areas of high deer activity.

The officer suggested setting the snare just off the deer trail and placing a tin can in the trail so the coyote would veer off the trail to avoid the can and be caught. Deer would likely ignore the can and continue down the trail and avoid being snared. Johnsen was also encouraged to set a deflector such as a stick over the snare so smaller animals like coyotes and bobcats would go under the stick and get caught in the snare, while larger animals like deer would jump over the stick avoiding the snare. Thompson saw no evidence of any of these suggestions being tried by Johnsen.

"Since Mr. Johnsen also owned leg-hold traps, I urged him to switch to leg-hold traps because they were less likely to catch deer, but he never did," Thompson said.

Johnsen killed another deer on Dec 30, 2005, and Jan. 12, 2006. He was issued warning tickets for both violations and was told by Thompson all subsequent deer killed in his snares would result in citations. Johnsen did not report another snared deer until the following November.

From Nov. 23, 2006, to Jan. 6, 2007, seven more deer were killed in Johnsen's snares, and he was issued a citation for taking a deer without a license for each incident. Two deer were caught and killed in the exact locations where Johnsen snared and killed previous deer.

"I do commend Mr. Johnsen for contacting me and reporting these deer he caught in his snares," Thompson said.

On the majority of the reports, Thompson would accompany Johnsen to the scene. Twice on patrol Thompson discovered a deer in Johnsen’s snares before Johnsen did. Johnsen later reported both to the officer.

Johnsen reported to Thompson he would have approximately 35 snares out at a time. All 16 deer - two does and 14 fawns - were snared on public land in the Dubois area including Game and Fish's East Fork, Whiskey Basin and Jake's Fork wildlife habitat management areas. One buck and two does were caught in Johnsen's snares and released alive. 

Johnsen appeared in court Jan. 12, 2007 for the violations and was ordered by Judge Denhardt to cease snaring until the charges were settled. While removing his snares the next day he discovered a whitetail fawn killed by a snare and was issued another citation for taking a deer without a license.

Chief Game Warden Jay Lawson says violations resulting from inadvertent snaring are not uncommon in Wyoming. In 1999, a Cody man killed at least 15 deer in snares set along fences about 15 miles northeast of Meeteetse. He was convicted of two counts of destruction of state property (deer) and ordered to pay $8,000 restitution and $200 to the Wyoming Crime Victim's Fund. A $400 fine for each count was suspended providing the defendant complete 25 hours of community service for each count.

Anyone with information about protected animals being killed in snares are urged to call the Stop Poaching Hotline at (877) WGFD-TIP. Callers can remain anonymous and are eligible for a cash reward if the information leads to a conviction.

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