Poacher arrested for selling game meat as beef jerky

In 2019, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) received a tip through its stop poaching hotline that someone was poaching mule deer and pronghorn out of season in the county of Natrona. To find this perpetrator, wildlife investigators set up a sting operation.

According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Gary Lee Ferrier was selling $300 “trespass tickets” on social media to hunt on his property. So the investigators bought and spent a few days at Grazing Hills Ranch. For three days, deer and antelope carcasses were seen around the property and in burn piles. Ferrier also described his illicit activities directly to them and they were given what was called “organic beef” jerky.

After the trip, the WGFD forensic lab analyzed the jerky and found that it was actually an antelope. During a search of the ranch nine months later, officials seized 75 more bags of “beef jerky” marked for sale online. DNA evidence showed that the meat contained 18 different antelope and mule deer, but no trace of beef.

After the investigation concluded, the rangers teamed up with deputies from the Natrona County Sheriff’s Office. According to a WGFD press release, Ferrier was arrested in January 2021 and charged with 26 wildlife violations. When all was said and done, the court assessed $45,070 in fines and restitution. In addition, Ferrier’s hunting, fishing and trapping privileges are suspended in Wyoming and the 48 other states that are members of the Wildlife Violators Compact for five years or until restitution is paid.

In court, Ferrier pleaded no contest to nine of the 26 charges. These charges include killing a mule deer and male antelope without a license and during a closed season, being an accessory to the killing of other mule deer and male antelope without a license and during a closed season, two counts of wanton destruction of game animals. large game, and three charges for the sale of game meat. In exchange for her no contest plea, the district attorney dismissed the remaining charges.

An ex-girlfriend of Ferrier’s spoke to investigators and detailed in an affidavit in the case how most of the animals he killed rotted and spoiled in a shed without refrigeration, and then he simply poached another. Ferrier confessed in court that she sold the game jerky and illegal entry coupons to get out of a bad situation.

Regardless of the motive for the crime, it is unfair to take such a precious public resource. “Antelope Hunting Area 73 is an extremely busy hunting area near Casper,” Casper Region Wildlife Supervisor Brian Olsen told Cowboy State Daily. In 2020, the area had a hunter success rate of over 90% with over 1,000 males legally taken.

“The importance of a single tip to the hotline to stop the poaching of an individual made all the difference,” Olsen said. “He started the whole investigation. We are proud of our rangers for following a single piece of advice and stopping what could have been a significant negative impact on a local pack. But above all, we thank the person who made the call. His observations and information made all the difference.”