By Mark Heinz, Outdoors Reporter
After allegedly slaying a menagerie of Wyoming wildlife, three out-of-staters have been convicted of more than 100 violations in what state agents are calling one of Wyoming’s largest poaching cases on record.
After a multi-agency investigation stretching back to 2015, Russell Vick of Alabama, Robert Underwood of Oklahoma and his son, David Underwood of South Dakota, were cumulatively fined $171,230 and slapped with $131,000 in restitution, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
The Underwoods are former Gillette residents.
Vick, apparently the primary perpetrator, in August started serving a 20- to 24-month sentence at the state penitentiary in Rawlins, which came on the heels of spending a year in jail in Sheridan County.
The investigation involved “dozens” of wardens and game agents, Game and Fish Chief Game Warden Rick King stated on the agency’s online news site Monday afternoon. King could not be reached for further comment.
Avid Wyoming hunter and conservationist Josh Coursey told Cowboy State Daily that he was glad to see the poachers in this case get stiff punishment. However, poaching remains all too common here.
“We’re in the 21st Century, this shouldn’t be occurring,” said Coursey, who lives near Kemmerer and is the co-founder, president and CEO of Muley Fanatics, a mule deer conservation group.
Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Other Wildlife Killed
The charges stemmed from illegal killings in Park, Weston, Campbell and Sheridan counties, according to Game and Fish.
In a prolonged killing spree dating back to the mid-2000s, the trio illegally took moose, bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, antelope, pheasants, turkeys and a bobcat, according to Game and Fish.
Alabama officials also suspect Vick of poaching alligators and waterfowl in that state.
In addition to jail and prison time, fines and restitution, Vick and Robert Underwood lost Wyoming hunting and fishing privileges for life. David Underwood had his hunting and fishing privileges suspended for 20 years.
Resource Brings Temptation
Coursey said hunters can act as “eyes and ears” in the field to help nail poachers and “we’re getting better at catching these people.”
However, far too much of Wyoming’s wildlife is still illegally shot, he said.
“This (poaching) amounts to a theft of our natural resource of wildlife,” he said. “We have a tremendous resource and that comes with the risk of people who want to come here and steal it.
“They think that because of our wide-open spaces, they can do these things where nobody will see them and they can get away with it.”