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A Black Bear cub sits atop a tree branch. After a multi-year investigation, the case known as ‘Operation Treed’ has come to a close, thanks to investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Courtney Celley)

A Black Bear cub sits atop a tree branch. After a multi-year investigation, the case known as ‘Operation Treed’ has come to a close, thanks to investigators from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo by Courtney Celley)

Illegal Trafficking of Black Bears Stopped in Wisconsin’s North Woods

By Tina Shaw
External Affairs

Federal and state agents marked the closure of a long-running bear poaching case in Wisconsin recently, as defendants in the case were sentenced. The heart of the case involved illegal guiding and other deceptive practices which were documented over the course of the investigation.

United States Attorney James L. Santelle for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced January 29, that John J. Kellogg of Gillett, Christopher Halfmann of Green Bay, Michael Renken of Merrill, and Mark Barlament of Mint Hill, North Carolina, were convicted of violations of the Lacey Act, Title 16, United States Code, Sections 3372(a)(2) and (4) and 3373(d)(1)(B). All of the defendants entered guilty pleas to violations of the Lacey Act related to the trafficking of black bears that were illegally killed in Wisconsin.

“This is a classic case of a few people who are not representative of the hunting community stealing opportunity from law abiding hunters,” said Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Chief Warden Randy Stark. “Through the teamwork between the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin DNR, and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, these people were brought to justice.”

Special Agent in Charge for the Midwest Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Greg Jackson was pleased with the sentencing and commented, “This case balances the scales in favor of ethical hunting in the Midwest.”

Beginning in 2009, and continuing through 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources conducted an undercover investigation into the illegal killing of black bears and other game animals. In September 2009, Kellogg, Barlament and Halfmann arranged for the illegal sale and transfer of Barlament’s Class A bear license (allowing for the shooting and tagging of a bear) to an undercover officer, in violation of Wisconsin law.

Kellogg, Halfmann and others then provided guide services, which resulted in a bear being illegally killed and tagged. Kellogg facilitated the transfer of meat from the bear, as well as a rug made from the bear hide to an undercover officer in another state.

Kellogg, Halfmann and Renken were also charged with a violation of the Lacey Act that had occurred in September 2011. Kellogg again arranged for the illegal sale and transfer of a Class A bear license to an undercover officer, in violation of Wisconsin law. Despite having his hunting privileges revoked by the State of Wisconsin, Kellogg illegally guided others on a bear hunt on September 9, 2011. During the hunt, Halfmann shot and wounded a bear that then attacked him. Kellogg later killed the bear and Renken illegally transferred his Class A bear license to Kellogg to tag the bear. Kellogg directed an undercover officer to transport the bear for processing of the bear meat and the creation of a bear rug.

Kellogg pled guilty to one felony count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on January 23, 2013, to six months in prison. He was also ordered to serve three years supervised release and make a $10,000 contribution to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts. His hunting, trapping and fishing privileges were revoked for 15 years. Kellogg also was ordered to forfeit his hunting dogs, which had been used to facilitate these illegal hunts, as well as a truck, dog tracking equipment and a rifle.

Halfmann pled guilty to two misdemeanor violations of the Lacey Act and was sentenced on January 18, 2013, to three years of probation with conditions, including a $5,000 contribution to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts and a six-year revocation of his hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges.

Renken pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on January 2, 2013, to two years of probation with conditions, including a $3,000 contribution to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts and a five-year revocation of his hunting and trapping privileges.

Barlament pled guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Lacey Act and was sentenced on September 24, 2012, to one year of probation with conditions, including a $1,000 contribution to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conservation accounts and a five-year revocation of his hunting, trapping and fishing privileges.

In addition to federal violations, Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources officials documented multiple state wildlife violations.

The case was investigated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney William Roach, of the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

-FWS-

 

Last updated: March 19, 2013