MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota dentist is accused of poaching after traveling to Zimbabwe and paying two experts to help him find a lion.
Officials in Zimbabwe say Dr. Walter Palmer, who practices dentistry in Bloomington, paid about $55,000 for a lion hunt. He thought he was doing it legally and with permits, but things changed when he realized a lion he shot and killed with a bow and arrow was a 13-year-old collared research lion.
The death of Cecil the lion set off a firestorm on social media on Tuesday, and protests are planned outside the Palmer’s dentistry office.
It’s also not the first time a Minnesota native has been involved in a poaching case. Most others involve the illegal harvesting of deer, moose or fish, but poaching has a past. Here are some of the more high profile cases that either happened in Minnesota or involved Minnesotans.
Back in February, the DNR launched an investigation after two bull elk were found shot and left for dead near Grygla, Minn., during an aerial survey. The land the animals were found on hand been closed since 2012. The aerial survey found 18 bull elk in the area, down from 20 the year before and 28 two years ago. The DNR’s management goal for the area is 30 to 38 bull elk. Authorities said both animals were found frozen and had been dead for some time.
Four men were charged in a large deer poaching case in Dawson back in January. It was the conclusion of a five-year investigation that resulted in 37 guns seized and the recovery of 28 deer antler sets and 11 shoulder mounts. The animals poached included elk, mule deer and untagged piebald deer. Joshua Lieble, 37 of Dawson, was charged along with three other men.
One of the more high profile poaching cases was in December of 2011. At the time, a 19-year-old Rushford man was accused of poaching a deer in southeastern Minnesota. The man shot a 21-point buck with a bow and arrow and was trespassing into a pen when the deer was killed. The buck was valued at $15,000 to $20,000. The man was fined more than $50,000, spent 120 days in jail and is on probation for 10 years.
In June of 2013, an Andover man pleaded guilty in a deer poaching case in Iowa. Bradley Swanson, Jr., 42 at the time, was ordered to pay $18,000 in civil damages for illegal harvesting of deer from 2008 to 2011. He lost hunting license in Iowa and 38 other states and also had hunting, fishing and trapping licenses suspended.
In April of 2013, 10 people were charged for poaching walleye from the Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations. The fish were valued to be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. The men were accused of taking fish from the area without approval of the Red Lake Fisheries Association and sold them illegally. Other defendants were accused of netting fish from Leech Lake for commercial purposes.
In January of 2011, a Minnesota man was charged with poaching two moose in Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. Gordon Slabaugh pleaded guilty to destruction of a cow and calf moose in an area known for trophy quality bull moose. The incident happened Oct. 19, 2010.
In October of 2006, Minnesota native Brian Becker spent 33 months in federal prison and served 36 months on probation in 2007 for smuggling 14 white-tailed buck deer from Minnesota to Texas.
In October of 2009, Troy Alan Reinke of Cannon falls was fined $2,000, spent one year in jail and had hunting privileges revoked for five years after poaching record 8-point white tailed buck in Goodhue County. If killed legally, would’ve been largest 8-pointer registered in history.
In one of the bigger poaching cases in the Midwest, a Wisconsin man was fined more than $73,000 in 2006 for guiding individuals without hunting permits and selling or transporting wildlife across state lines in Richland County, Wis., from 2002 to 2005.
In one of the biggest cases in U.S. history, a man was fined $120,000 and issued a three-year hunting ban on his ranch in Texas in 2005 for baiting migratory waterfowl over a five-year period.
In Minnesota, current DNR poaching penalties vary. Poaching is not currently a felony, it is considered a gross misdemeanor. Efforts to make it a felony are ongoing, and the penalties being considered include at least one year in prison and fines of more than $3,000 as well as losing the rights to own or carry guns and to vote.