Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Anti-wolf activist accused of poaching

SaveElk.com founder charged with felony in killing of trophy elk


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Tony Mayer, founder of the SaveElk.com website, is accused of killing a trophy bull elk out of season last year in the Alturas Lake area of northern Blaine County. Shown here in the Ketchum area is a young bull elk, not yet trophy size. Photo by Mountain Express

The founder of a Twin Falls-based, anti-wolf Internet site has been charged with a felony for allegedly killing a trophy bull elk out of season last year in the Alturas Lake area of northern Blaine County.

Anthony J. Mayer, 59, is charged in a criminal complaint filed in Blaine County 5th District Court in September with "flagrant unlawful killing and possession of a trophy bull elk." He is also charged with the misdemeanor crimes of hunting without an elk tag, hunting without an archery permit and unlawful possession of protected wildlife.

Mayer was scheduled for an initial court appearance today, Oct. 6, before Blaine County Magistrate Court Judge R. Ted Israel. He was not arrested, but was issued a felony summons instead.

Jerome attorney John Lothspeich, who is representing Mayer, has filed a written plea of not guilty and a demand for a jury trial.

"We're prepared to bring every possible legal defense on behalf of our client," Lothspeich said. "He is a lifelong dedicated hunter and fisherman and we deny any wrongdoing on the part of our client."

Mayer, who more commonly goes by the name of Tony Mayer, is the founder of SaveElk.com, a website protesting the reintroduction of wolves into Idaho, Montana and Wyoming in the mid-1990s.

The website urges regulation to "effectively deal with the Idaho Canadian gray wolf population as necessary to protect citizens and children, to reduce the growing public safety and health risk associated with wolf borne disease and to reduce and control unacceptable livestock and ungulate depredation." Ungulates include elk, deer and moose and other hoofed big-game animals.

The criminal complaint against Mayer was filed following an investigation by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

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A probable-cause affidavit filed by Fish and Game Conservation Officer Merritt Horsmon accuses Mayer of illegally killing a "6X6 bull elk" in the Alturas Lake Creek drainage area several days after the bow hunting season was closed in Unit 36 on Sept. 30, 2009. Horsmon alleges that the animal, of trophy status, was killed instead by Mayer on Oct. 3 and that Mayer did not have an elk tag at the time or a valid archery permit.

Horsmon wrote that he started the investigation after being told by other Fish and Game employees that Mayer had posted a story with photographs about the killing of the animal on the "Bowsite" website on Oct. 5, 2009. Details of the story, Horsmon wrote, indicated that the animal had been killed when the season was closed.

Horsmon wrote that Mayer posted the same story on the "Sportsman's Warehouse Bragg'n Board" on Oct. 7, 2009. He further wrote that Mayer entered the animal's antlers in the Twin Falls Sportsman's Warehouse 2009 Bucks and Bulls contest.

Evidence was also gathered after a search warrant was served on Mayer's home in Twin Falls on Nov. 11, 2009.

Horsmon wrote that Mayer told him in an interview on Oct. 8, 2009, that "he had first shot and wounded the elk using archery equipment on Sept. 30, 2009, and again shot and killed the elk using archery equipment on Oct. 1, 2009."

Horsmon alleged that Mayer didn't purchase an elk tag until Oct. 4, 2009, and that when he reported the elk harvest he claimed to have killed the animal on that day.

Speaking through his attorney, Mayer declined to comment on the charges to the Idaho Mountain Express.

The felony crime of unlawful killing or possession of a trophy bull elk is punishable under Idaho code by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine. The misdemeanor crimes Mayer is charged with are punishable by fines of up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Fish and Game violations in Idaho can also result in loss of hunting and fishing privileges.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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