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2 accused of maiming, capturing big cats for illegal hunting

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SALT LAKE CITY — Two men from out-of-state have been indicted with the illegal capture and caging of cougars and bobcats in Utah for illegal hunts, Utah Division of Wildlife Services said.

Thursday, DWR, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Christopher W. Loncarich, 55, an outfitter from Mack, Colo. and assistant guide Nicholaus J. Rodgers, 30, of Medford, Ore. — along with four other assistant guides who have pled guilty — were charged in a 17-count indictment with illegally capturing and maiming big cats between 2007 and 2010.

"These are very serious accusations that these men are facing," said Ron Velarde, Northwest Regional Manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife told DWR. "If they are found guilty of these charges, it is easily among the worst cases I have seen in my 40-plus years in wildlife management.".

Loncarich and Rodgers allegedly captured the cats for illegal hunts with clients, who didn’t have proper tags for hunting. The two would capture the cougars and bobcats, including many from Utah, by shooting the animals in the paws and limiting mobility, according to DWR. From there, Loncarich and Rodgers would transport the cats to the hunting area and release the injured animal, “ensuring a kill for their clients,” DWR said.

The animals’ hides would then be transported over state lines to Colorado by Loncarich and Rodgers, who used falsified records to obtain seals from CPW, DWR wrote. From there, the two are accused of sending the illegally taken wildlife to clients’ home states — a violation of federal law.

The Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division is prosecuting the case.

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Celeste Tholen Rosenlof

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