Anonymous Tip Leads To Poaching Convictions

An anonymous letter received in January 2012 alerted Wyoming Game and Fish wardens that a Cheyenne taxidermist imported feral pigs from Texas to Wyoming and also killed a mule deer buck out of season.

These tips directly led to the recent convictions of Troy T. Hall for those, and several other wildlife violations.

aWyomingpoacherThe investigation discovered that in 2004 Hall intentionally poached a buck mule deer out of season with no license while trespassing and falsified an Interstate Game Tag to cover the crime, illegally imported live feral pigs in 2006, guided several hunters without a license in 2010, and as a taxidermist failed to attach an Interstate Game Tag to a bighorn sheep mount.

For the variety of violations, Hall, 43, was assessed $16,080 in fines and restitution, was placed on 18 months supervised probation, was placed on 30 months of concurrent unsupervised probation, lost his hunting privileges for six years and forfeited the mount of his illegally taken deer and other penalties.

“The investigation was complicated by the fact that some of the violations were up to eight years old,” said Cheyenne Game Warden Shawn Blajszczak. “It was a true cold case. Memories fade and are lost and evidence disappears, so it took a lot of extra interviews and a great deal of evidence collection to piece things together.”

The investigation confirmed Hall imported two feral male piglets from Texas to his ranchette east of Cheyenne in the spring of 2006. One of the young, unneutered pigs later died and the other escaped confinement before being lured to bait and shot by Hall at night in August 2006.

Hall told officers he was hoping to raise “Hogzilla” – a very large feral hog – that was in response to the almost 800-pound feral hog shot in Texas in 2004, which received that nickname and generated considerable publicity.

The investigation, led by Blajszczak and Laramie Wildlife Investigator John Demaree, also confirmed Hall killed a heavy-antlered 5-by-5 mule deer on Nov. 3, 2004, 19 days after the season closed and without the limited-quota license required for that area. Hall, a professional taxidermist, had permission to hunt elk on a ranch in southeast Johnson County – but he did not have permission to hunt deer. In following years, Hall entered his mount of the illegally harvested deer in taxidermy competitions and was awarded several ribbons. He falsified the Interstate Game Tag on the mount by attesting the deer was killed Nov. 20, 2004 near Hulett.

Blajszczak and fellow game wardens, served four search warrants during the course of the investigation to obtain evidence about the various wildlife crimes. He said the search warrants were obtained based on the evidence collected and interviews conducted. Blajszczak added that evidence seized from the warrants proved to be very important to the investigation and prosecution of the case.

“That included not only the pedestal mount of the illegally taken buck mule deer and many trophy photos of Hall’s illegal activities, but also a trophy set of bighorn ram horns on an attached skull plate that did not have the required plug or Interstate Game Tag,” Blajszczak said.

Hall told officers the horns were a replica of a ram from Estes Park, Colo. and hence did not require a tag, pointing out a portion of a horn that had been repaired. Blajszczak doubted the story and had the mount X-rayed by the Transportation Security Administration at the Cheyenne Regional Airport. The X-ray revealed the horns were real and only a small portion was a repair patch. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Wildlife Forensic Laboratory also confirmed through DNA analysis that the mount was a bighorn ram. Blajszczak later determined that the ram was taken by another individual in Colorado, but no record of a hunting license was found and the case was turned over to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Although Hall had been a licensed guide for several years, the investigation revealed that in 2010 he guided big game hunters without renewing his guide’s license. The outfitter who hired Hall that year cooperated fully with the investigation and was issued a warning for not confirming his guides were licensed.

Hall was scheduled to appear in Johnson County Circuit Court on Nov. 2, 2012 for the charges of killing the buck mule deer out of season, also known as the “winter range statute” W.S. 23-3-102-(d) and trespassing – but he didn’t show up. A bench warrant was issued for his arrest and Blajszczak was notified. The game warden arrested Hall on Nov. 7 and took him to the Laramie County Detention Center. After being incarcerated for a night, Hall posted a $3,500 cash bond and was released.

Hall appeared on his next date of Nov. 30 in Johnson County Circuit Court and pleaded guilty in a plea agreement.In the sentence signed by Fourth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge J. John Sampson, Hall was fined $6,080 and ordered to pay $4,000 restitution. Hall was also given a suspended 18-month jail sentence and placed on 18 months supervised probation. In addition to suspending his hunting privileges for five years, Hall is prohibited from accompanying anyone hunting or in the field or participating in target practice for five years. Hall also forfeited the mount of the illegally taken deer, which Game and Fish plans to use for education programs and displays.

In a plea agreement in Laramie County, Hall pleaded guilty Oct. 30, 2012 to importing feral pigs, guiding without a license, making false statements on the Interstate Game Tag and failing to attach an Interstate Game Tag to the Colorado bighorn ram. In the sentence signed by Circuit Court Judge Roberta A. Coates, Hall was fined $6,000, had his hunting privileges suspended for six years and during that time may accompany only hunters younger than 18 years old – while not shooting, carrying a weapon or taking any animal himself. Hall was also given a suspended330-day jail sentence and placed on 30 months unsupervised probation.

“Although he pleaded guilty in the plea agreements, the only violation Hall admitted to me he committed was importing the live feral pigs from Texas,” Blajszczak said.

Blajszczak thanks the prosecutors in the cases – Ryan Wright in Johnson County and Tom Lee, Rob Sanford, and T.J. Forwood in Laramie County – for their hard work and diligence in obtaining the appropriate sentences and the other wildlife officers who helped with the investigation. The game warden added that Hall’s was the first ever conviction for importing feral pigs into Wyoming.

“We likely would have never heard about these violations if a concerned citizen didn’t have the conscience to report it,” Blajszczak said. “And it’s a good thing violations can be investigated and prosecuted in Wyoming no matter how long ago they occurred, so game wardens can continue to protect our state’s tremendous wildlife resource for future generations.”

Hall was also convicted of a federal Lacey Act violation and fined $2,025 for shooting a white-tailed deer outside the hunt area he was not licensed for in Kansas in November 2008 and transporting the illegally taken animal across state lines to Wyoming. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also served a search warrant on Hall’s Cheyenne residence in the Lacey Act investigation.

Source: Wyoming Game and Fish