Game and Fish Department Photo

A Chugwater man has been ordered to pay thousands in fines for multiple counts of poaching big game animals after authorities received a tip on the Stop Poaching Hotline.

The tip led investigators to a social media site where 47-year-old John Clark had posted photos of the animals he shot, including a photo of a buck antelope that he said was his “first antelope with a bow," according to Cheyenne Game Warden David Ellsworth.

Further investigation revealed Clark, who lived in Rock River at the time, never purchased a hunting license for at least six big game animals that he killed between 2010 and 2013.  Investigators obtained a search warrant for Clark’s residence. Antlers and horns from the poached animals were then discovered. They also found a pelt from a swift fox and talons from great horned owls and golden eagles.

During the investigation, Clark admitted to shooting a mule deer buck each year from 2010 to 2013, all without a license. When presented with the social media photograph of the antelope, he admitted that he had also shot that buck without a license in 2012. He then confessed to taking an additional buck antelope in 2010 and another in 2012.

Clark was charged with four counts of taking mule deer without a license, two counts of taking antelope without a license, illegal possession of elk meat, and two counts of illegal possession of mule deer meat. He was also issued warnings for illegal possession of raptor parts, and for theft/removal of a Game and Fish Department “road closed” sign.

The Game and Fish Department did not take action on charges of trapping without a license, illegal take of a swift fox, or an over limit of trout that was also discovered during the investigation.

Albany Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Castor ordered Clark to pay $30,240 in fines and suspended his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for 36 years. Four charges of illegal game possession were dismissed by the prosecution.

Ellsworth thanked the Wyoming Game and Fish Wildlife Forensics Laboratory for their help in identifying the species and gender of the game meat found in Clark’s possession during the investigation and the Albany County Attorney’s Office for their work on the case.

Ellsworth said this case demonstrates the importance of poaching reports from the public.

“This whole investigation got started with a Stop Poaching tip. It stresses how important it is for members of the public to contact us if they have any information about possible poaching crimes,” he said.

Anyone with information on a wildlife crime can call the Stop Poaching Tip Line at 1-877-WGFD-TIP (1-877-943-3847). Tips may also be reported online at http://wgfd.wyo.gov, or by text at TIP411. Informants can choose to remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward for information leading to an arrest.