SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – They were once a group that guides clients on mountain lion hunts, but now two men are charged with federal wildlife crimes.
Hunting of mountain lions isn’t easy and it’s not supposed to be. The season lasts most of the winter from November to March. Normally guides will track a mountain lion, release dogs so the cat goes up a tree, and that’s when the client hunter shows up and shoots the animal.
Now one Western Slope group of guides is accused of trapping the cats and making sure they couldn’t escape. The most disturbing allegation is that they would shoot the cat in the leg or put a trap on them beforehand so they weren’t so elusive from the clients.
The Department of Justice says Christopher Loncarich, 55, of Mack had help from his partner Nicolaus Rodgers of Medford, Ore. They led hunts around the Book Cliffs Mountains on the Utah border. They are accused of sometimes capturing the cats in Utah and bringing them back into Colorado.
It’s the result of a lengthy investigation with the help of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Some law enforcement officers say it’s something they haven’t seen before.
“I would say this is probably one of the more egregious situations that I have seen in more than 20 years of doing this,” Dean Riggs with Colorado Parks and Wildlife said “We in society expect people to follow laws and to do this in a ‘fair chase’ sort of manner.”
Four other members of the outfitting group have already pleaded guilty as part of the ring.
Loncarich and Rodgers are facing 17 counts in federal court.