Poaching investigation leads to the conviction of four men
BARNES COUNTY, N.D. (Valley News Live) - Four men have been convicted after a North Dakota Game and Fish Department investigation into the poaching of at least 10 whitetail bucks in Barnes County.
Beginning in October 2019, Department wardens began by investigating a buck shot near Valley City that had its antlers removed. Within a week, another buck, also missing its antlers, was discovered in nearly the same location. No meat was removed from either carcass and left to rot.
Mark Pollert, the Department warden supervisor in Jamestown, said more suspicious, dead deer were reported to wardens later that fall, most near the Sheyenne River Valley from Lake Ashtabula to Kathryn. In two cases, antlers had been removed from the deer in the same manner and the carcasses left to waste.
In December 2019, game wardens, with the assistance of warden pilot Jeff Sieger of Bismarck, conducted a night flight in hopes of developing suspects. That night, warden Michael Sedlacek of Fargo became involved in a ground pursuit of a vehicle that appeared to be illegally shining wildlife.
The vehicle eventually got stuck in the snow and the shining suspects, who were not involved in the same case with the four eventually convicted men, were apprehended with the assistance of other wardens and law enforcement personnel. During an interview with the suspects, wardens discovered a photo of a large whitetail buck, which led to additional investigations.
Wardens spent countless hours conducting interviews, served several warrants and collected evidence for safekeeping and DNA analysis.
The Department now says that four men have been convicted in the case; Jakob Ashline and Payne Drake, both of Valley City, and Calvin Bjornson and Ryan Rudolph, both of Spiritwood. The convictions included, among other penalties, many misdemeanors, fines and fees.
Ashline was convicted of 15 A misdemeanors; nine B misdemeanors; $7,900 in fines, fees and restitution; 53 days in jail; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for 10 years.
Drake was convicted of one A misdemeanor; eight B misdemeanors; $850 in fines and fees; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for two years.
Bjornson was convicted of two A misdemeanors; one B misdemeanor; and $4,750 in fines and fees.
Rudolph was convicted of four A misdemeanors; two B misdemeanors; $2,635 in fines, fees and restitution; and loss of hunting/fishing/trapping privileges for two years.
In addition, Ashline forfeited two rifles and a spotlight; Rudolph forfeited one rifle and has to complete 100 hours community service; and Drake has to complete 80 hours of community service.
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