Stanchfield man pleads guilty to Wyoming moose poaching

By Jon Tatting
North Branch Post Review

A Stanchfield man has been fined $18,690 and lost his hunting privileges for four years in 31 states due to poaching a cow and calf moose last October in the Bighorn National Forest in northern Wyoming.

Gordon Slabaugh, 67, pleaded guilty to two counts of wanton destruction of the animals when appearing pro se by telephone before Big Horn County Circuit Judge Tom Harrington on December 29, 2010.

The incident took place on Oct. 19 in an area known for trophy quality bull moose, and it was reported to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department a few days later by a concerned area hunter from nearby Greybull.

“The needless destruction and waste of these animals was fairly addressed by the court,” said Greybull game warden Bill Robertson via press release. “It is our hope that the public continues to alert the Game and Fish of the illegal take of moose or any other wildlife.”

In his investigation of the incident, Robertson noted Slabaugh had approached a local hunter asking for assistance in packing out two moose that he had killed in the Iron Mountain area of the Bighorn National Forest. “The local hunter declined and reported the incident,” he said.

A field investigation led to the discovery of a cow and calf moose — both left to rot in the field. A .270 caliber slug was recovered from the cow moose; the bull calf had been field dressed, moved a short distance and abandoned, Robertson continued.

In a followup interview with the Post Review, Robertson said moose hunting is very restricted by a license drawing in that area. The reporting party knew that only one non-resident a year is lucky enough to draw a coveted license for moose in that area, and it was understood that the two moose in question had been killed illegally. The reporting party advised Mr. Slabaugh to call in the violation, he recalled.

In addition, Slabaugh was licensed to hunt cow elk in the area, as the season for elk began Oct. 15. The initial violation would have been taking moose without a license, however, it was not until Oct. 23 that the reporting party called Robertson after Slabaugh advised he had not reported the violation.

“Of course after four days in the sun the moose had rotted so the violation became wanton destruction as there was no effort to care for or deal with the carcasses. Wanton destruction of a big game animal (moose included) is considered a high misdemeanor in Wyoming,” Robertson explained.

In addition to losing his hunting privileges for four years in 31 states — including Wyoming and Minnesota, as covered under the Wildlife Violator Compact — Slabaugh was sentenced to 10 days imprisonment (suspended), restitution of $7,500 for each animal, a fine for each count of $1,750 and unsupervised probation with the conditions specifying no violation of Wyoming law.

Court costs of $40 and $150 Crime Victims Compensation were also levied.

“There are people who are willing to go out of their way to report violations and for that we are very grateful,” Robertson said. “We will continue to make every effort to bring justice to those who blatantly disregard the wildlife regulations governing fair chase and the legal taking of wildlife.”