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New Mexico Man Faces 20 Charges in Deer Poaching Case

March 27, 2009.

From the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish:

A Portales, NM man has pleaded not guilty to 20 wildlife-related charges stemming from an extensive investigation by the Department of Game and Fish into numerous deer poaching incidents.

Jacob Gaines, 20, was arrested March 12 after a search warrant was executed at his Portales residence, where conservation officers seized 17 deer heads and one pronghorn antelope head. Gaines was released on $10,000 bond after requesting a jury trial in Roosevelt County Magistrate Court in Portales. Jury selection is scheduled for Aug. 10.

Charges against Gaines include 13 counts of unlawful possession of deer, 4 counts of unlawful possession of a deer taken by another, 2 counts of purchasing additional deer hunting licenses, and 1 count of unlawful possession of an antelope. Gaines also faces civil penalties to reimburse the state of New Mexico for the loss of the deer.  Some of the buck deer also may qualify for increased civil penalties because of the trophy size of their antlers. 

The investigation was initiated by a call from a concerned citizen to the Roosevelt County Sheriff’s office alleging that Gaines and others had been poaching deer in the Portales area. Department of Game and Fish officers were called to interview Gaines, who said he and several of his friends had hunted deer during the regularly scheduled rifle hunts in Game Management Unit 32. Gaines also told the officers that he and his friends killed some bucks during those seasons and that the heads were at his residence in Portales. Gaines said that he had the heads at his home because he was skinning them out and making European mounts for his friends.  When asked about whether or not carcass tags were attached to all of the heads, Gaines said that some did and others didn’t.

During the investigation, evidence was collected that contradicted the information presented by Gaines and his friends, especially about the timing of when several of the bucks were killed. Further evidence was gathered, including several photographs that were posted on Gaines' MySpace web page showing Gaines with several different big-game animals.

Anyone with information concerning this case or any other wildlife-related crime is encouraged to call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-432- GAME (4263).  Callers need not identify themselves or appear in court, and may be eligible for rewards. 

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