Illegal trafficking of black bears stopped in Wisconsin’s Northwoods
Federal and state agents marked the closure of a long-running bear poaching case in Wisconsin recently as defendants in the case were sentenced. The heart of the case involved illegal guiding and other deceptive practices which were documented over the course of the investigation.
United States Attorney James L. Santelle for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced Jan. 29 that John J. Kellogg, 48, of Gillett; Christopher Halfmann, 41, of Green Bay; Michael Renken, 53, of Merrill; and Mark Barlament, 53, of Mint Hill, NC, were convicted of violations of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2) and (4) and 3373(d)(1)(B). All of the defendants entered guilty pleas to violations of the Lacey Act related to the trafficking of black bears that were illegally killed in Wisconsin.
Beginning in 2009, and continuing through 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducted an undercover investigation into the illegal killing of black bears and other game animals. In September 2009, Kellogg, Barlament and Halfmann arranged for the illegal sale and transfer of Barlament’s Class A bear license (allowing for the shooting and tagging of a bear) to an undercover officer in violation of Wisconsin law.
Kellogg, Halfmann and others then provided guide services, which resulted in a bear being illegally killed and tagged. Kellogg facilitated the transfer of meat from the bear, as well as a rug made from the bear hide to an undercover officer in another state.
Kellogg, Halfmann and Renken were also charged with a violation of the Lacey Act that had occurred in September 2011. Kellogg again arranged for the illegal sale and transfer of a Class A bear license to an undercover officer in violation of Wisconsin law. Despite having his hunting privileges revoked by the State of Wisconsin, Kellogg illegally guided others on a bear hunt on Sept. 9, 2011. During the hunt, Halfmann shot and wounded the bear that then attacked him. Kellogg later killed the bear and Renken illegally transferred his Class A bear license to Kellogg to tag the bear. Kellogg directed an undercover officer to transport the bear for processing of the bear meat and the creation of a bear rug.
Kellogg pled guilty to one felony count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on Jan. 23 to six months in prison. He was also ordered to serve three years supervised release and make a $10,000 contribution to the Wisconsin DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts. His hunting, trapping and fishing privileges were revoked for 15 years. He also was ordered to forfeit his hunting dogs, which had been used to facilitate these illegal hunts, as well as a truck, dog tracking equipment and a rifle.
Halfmann pled guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act and was sentenced on Jan. 18 to three years of probation with conditions, including a $5,000 contribution to the Wisconsin DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts and a six-year revocation of his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges.
Renken pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on Jan. 2 to two years of probation with conditions, including a $3,000 contribution to the Wisconsin DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts, and a five-year revocation of his hunting and trapping privileges.
Barlament pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on Sept. 24, 2012, to one year of probation with conditions, including a $1,000 contribution to the Wisconsin DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts and a five-year revocation of his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges.
In addition to federal violations, Wisconsin DNR officials documented multiple state wildlife violations. State cases are still pending on other defendants connected to this investigation.
The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wisconsin DNR and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William Roach of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.
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