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How Were Yellowstone Poachers Caught? A Trail on Social Media

When three Livingston (MT) men pled guilty to poaching a male mountain lion in the northern section of Yellowstone, Park officials did not release details of the investigation. Turns out, they were tracked down via prolific social-media posts.

Yellowstone National Park poachersAs you’ll recall from our earlier coverage, Austin Peterson, Trey Juhnke and Corbin Simmons pled guilty to violations of the Lacey Act in Yellowstone National Park (an act that prohibits hunting in the park). 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, the trio 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.

It was one thing to commit the crime; it was another thing to brag about the transgression on social media. In an excellent story, the Jackson Hole News & Guide obtained the investigation records, which provided a detailed look at how the trio were tracked down. From the Jackson Hole News & Guide:

Photos shared via Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, including publicly accessible images, were deleted, but not before other hunters recognized the landscape and alerted game wardens. While pressing 19-year-old hunter Corbin Simmons about the incident during a Jan. 10 interview, Yellowstone special agent Jake Olson explained what led him to the case.

“You know, we ended up getting a lot of this information from a guy in Bozeman off of Facebook,” Olson said, “’cause you guys put a bunch of stuff on social media.”…

A Facebook picture Peterson posted looking down into the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone convinced another mountain lion hunter that the trio illegally killed the tomcat in the park. After hearing from people who suspected that Peterson was in the park, the photo was deleted.

It’s a fascinating story; we’d recommend checking it out.

Hunting image from investigation report. Top mountain-lion image courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.

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