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Livingston Men Sentenced for Yellowstone Poaching

Three Livingston (MT) men pled guilty to poaching a male mountain lion in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park at the end of 2018.

According to a Yellowstone press release, the three men who violated the Lacey Act in Yellowstone National Park (an act that prohibits hunting in the park) have been sentenced in federal court. The men were charged with illegally hunting a male mountain lion in the northern section of the park, north of the Yellowstone River, on December 12, 2018.

Per court documents, Austin Peterson, Trey Juhnke, and Corbin Simmons, crossed the park’s marked boundary to hunt mountain lions. Each hunter admitted to shooting the lion and transporting the carcass back to their vehicle. Simmons then falsely claimed to have harvested the animal north of the park boundary in Montana. This affected the state’s quota system by denying a legal hunter the opportunity to legally harvest a lion.

On Friday, May 3, 2019, Peterson, age 20, was ordered to pay approximately $1,700 in restitution and fees, and must serve three years of unsupervised probation, during which time he is banned from hunting, fishing or trapping worldwide. Juhnke, age 20, and Simmons, age 19, received similar sentences at hearings in April 2019. All three pleaded guilty to the charges at prior court hearings.

“I would like to express a sincere thank you to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, law enforcement officers at Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch, and the US Attorney’s Office – District of Wyoming for being involved in this case,” said Yellowstone National Park Chief Ranger Pete Webster. “Their thorough work spotlighted this egregious act and the consequences incurred for hunting illegally in Yellowstone National Park.”

Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of US or Indian law or in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law. Park officials encourage those who have information about suspicious activity or wildlife takings in Yellowstone to call the 24-hour Tip Line at 307-344-2132. Callers can remain anonymous.

Though seldom seen by the public, biologists estimate that 20-31 adult cougars reside year-round in the northern range (an average of 12-18 females and 8-13 males). These estimates are based on field surveys and statistical analyses conducted from 2014–2017. Biologists found higher estimates in the later years of the study. The numbers do not include kitten and sub-adult cougars which accompany a portion of the adult females each year. Monitoring efforts since 2017 suggest a stable population consistent with these estimates for previous years.

The photo is not of the mountain lion killed, but rather a previous NPS photo of a Yellowstone mountain lion.

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