Officials with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the Three Affiliated Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department are currently investigating the poaching of a large mule deer found dead on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation last week.
The buck, which is speculated by some to be a contender for the state record, was believed to have been shot during the opening weekend of deer season. Since the deer was killed on reservation land, the case will be primarily handled by Three Affiliated Tribes Fish and Wildlife, although the state Game and Fish Department said it will be offering assistance and a $1,000 reward for information that leads to the poacher’s arrest.
“Our shared goal is to find people who are taking game illegally,” Game and Fish enforcement chief Bob Timian told Mike McFeely of WDAY.
According to wildlife officials, there has been a significant spike in poaching cases in the northwestern part of the state, including at least five unsolved cases north and northeast of Watford City. The Dakota County Magazine reported that most of the poaching incidents this season involved whitetails, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope. Many of the animals were left entirely intact. Officials say these cases are indicative of “thrill killing.” These types of killings usually occur from a vehicle with the aid of a spotlight.
Just this summer, a 19-year-old man in Wisconsin was sentenced to six months in jail and the loss of hunting privileges for 12 years after shooting at least 14 deer in Green Lake County. In that case, officials said the man gunned down deer from the passenger seat of his car.
Officials say that thrill killing is a serious concern, but not usually seen within the reservation.
The 988,000-acre Fort Berthold reservation contains the McLean National Wildlife Refuge and has a sizable population of game species, including mule deer. The reservation is home to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations, and traditionally only hunters from the affiliated tribes are able to hunt deer within Fort Berthold’s borders. However, reservation authorities do allow non-residents to hunt deer during bow season. Deer gun season, which runs from November 6 to 29, is restricted to tribal members, spouses, or children.
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