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Pronghorn poached and stuffed in rental van

Pronghorn carcass in back of rental van. Photo courtesy of Nevada Department of Wildlife. 

4/24/2018 5:26:21 AM

Lander - In September 2017, Game Warden Teal Cufaude received a report that a Washoe County Sheriff’s Deputy (Nevada) had made a traffic stop and discovered an illegally harvested buck pronghorn in the vehicle that was stopped. The vehicle occupants were identified as California residents Steve Stern and Bruce Martell. Nevada Game Wardens arrived on scene to further investigate the wildlife crime. During the course of interviews, Stern and Martell eventually admitted to the Nevada Game Wardens that the buck pronghorn had been killed by Stern in Wyoming without a license.

Stern reported that they had seen the buck on Highway 287 during a trip from California to Stern’s hunting property in South Dakota. Stern had made this drive many times before and was always amazed by the number of pronghorn in Wyoming. Stern did not have a license to hunt pronghorn in Wyoming, nor had he ever purchased any Wyoming hunting or fishing licenses.  After Stern shot the buck pronghorn they retrieved it from the field, loaded it into their rental minivan, and then drove for awhile before gutting it, near Alcova, Wyoming.
 
Stern and Martell then drove to South Dakota and hung the buck pronghorn in a friend’s outbuilding for the weekend. They were returning back to their residences in California when they were stopped in Nevada with the illegally taken buck pronghorn.


Washoe County Sheriff Deputy’s traffic stop
and search with Stern and Martell.


The Nevada Game Wardens arrested Stern and Martell following their interviews and charged them with violations of State Lacey Act and unlawful possession of a big game animal without a tag attached.  Stern and Martell pled guilty to unlawful possession of a big game animal without a tag attached.  They each paid a fine of $632 and a civil penalty of $500. They forfeited the rifle used as well as all their ammunition and the pronghorn.
 
Stern assured Warden Cufaude that this was a spur of the moment occurrence and they had not planned to kill a pronghorn during their travels, but their cell phones would say something different. After receiving a search warrant for cell phone data, the Nevada Game Wardens sent Stern’s and Martell’s cell phones to Warden Cufaude. Text messages from the phones showed that the men had premeditated killing a pronghorn during their trip. Following the kill, the men bragged to several friends about the event via text messages.
 
In March 2018, the individuals showed up to their arraignment in Carbon County, Wyoming. Stern pled no contest to taking a pronghorn without a license and Martell pled no contest to accessory to taking a pronghorn without a license. The Carbon County Circuit Court Judge accepted their pleas and subsequently suspended Stern's hunting and fishing privileges for six years. Martell's hunting privileges were suspended for six years and fishing privileges were suspended for one year. They were also fined $490.00 each, put on one year of probation, and ordered to pay $3000 restitution to the Game and Fish Fund. Although they have never held a Wyoming hunting or fishing license, with these sentences they will be entered into the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact and their hunting and fishing privilege suspension would be recognized in Compact States including their home state of California.

 

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- WGFD -

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