By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Natrona County man was fined recently for selling jerky made from poached game meat and advertising it as beef jerky, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Monday.
Gary Lee Ferrier was fined $45,070 after pleading no contest to hunting violations filed in connection with allegations he improperly took game meat and then used it in place of beef to create jerky.
Department officials credited the public for the tip that led to an arrest in the case.
“Game and Fish is grateful to the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office for their diligent work on this case, along with the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and the person who came forward with this information,” said Brian Olsen, Casper region wildlife supervisor. “This type of case can significantly impact Wyoming’s wildlife. It may have gone undetected without the public’s help.
“Antelope Hunt Area 73 is an extremely busy hunt area near Casper,” he continued in an interview with Cowboy State Daily.
“However, the importance of a single tip to the Stop Poaching Hotline from one individual made the difference. It kicked off the entire investigation. We are proud of our game wardens for following up on a single tip and stopping what could have been a significant negative impact on a local herd. But, mostly, we thank the individual who made the call. Their observations and information made all the difference,” he said.
According to Game and Fish officials, a tip from the public through the Stop Poaching Hotline alerted Game and Fish staff to possible hunting violations. The investigation revealed Ferrier had been killing mule deer and pronghorn without licenses and during closed seasons.
He then substituted the big game meat for beef to sustain his jerky business. The business sold products to unsuspecting customers throughout Wyoming and online.
Game and Fish game wardens located multiple deer and pronghorn antelope carcasses. Investigators sent tissue and jerky samples from the animals to the Game and Fish Wildlife Forensic Lab for DNA comparison, which showed a match from 18 mule deer and pronghorn antelope that were poached.
Ferrier was arrested by the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office and charged with 26 wildlife violations. In a plea agreement with the state, he pleaded no contest to killing a buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season.
Ferrier was also charged as an accessory to the killing of another buck mule deer and buck antelope without a license and during a closed season.
The plea agreement also included two counts of wanton destruction of big game animals and three counts of selling game meat.
In exchange for his no contest plea, the Natrona County district attorney dismissed the remaining charges.
In addition to the fines, Ferrier lost his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for a minimum of five years. He also will not be able to hunt in Wyoming or 48 other states that are members of the Wildlife Violator Compact until all of the fines and restitutions are paid in full.
Additionally, Ferrier forfeited all firearms seized by Game and Fish, all illegal wildlife parts and all supplies associated with the sale of game meat.