- Associated Press - Sunday, July 3, 2016

CODY, Wyo. (AP) - Wyoming game wardens are using decoys to trap poachers, luring as many as 10 illegal hunters a day.

Wyoming Game and Fish regional supervisor Scott Werbelow said mule deer and elk decoys made of plastic foam allow game wardens to be present at the scene of a crime with no risk to living wildlife.

“We hide them a little bit,” said Werbelow. “He’s going to have to be looking to hunt.”

Werbelow recalled one case where he caught a hunter who quickly realized his mistake. Werbelow said the man threw down his rifle and said, “I shot the same darned deer last year!”

Wardens say it helps them find violators in an area that covers 2,000 square miles, where the law can’t be everywhere at once. Authorities want to catch hunters who shoot animals out of season or without licenses, unlicensed outfitters who take out clients and those who spotlight animals at night.

Meeteetse game warden Jim Olson said game taken illegally is often not killed for its meat.

“Every one of us has seen a poached animal with its head cut off for the antlers,” he said. The rest of the animal is left to rot.

In other cases, Olson said, animals were injured and left to die, including an elk found hung up on a fence.

“She had been laying there for four or five days, licking snow for water,” said Olson, who euthanized the suffering animal.

The violators were caught, and they lost their hunting privileges and paid fines and restitution, the Cody Enterprise reported (http://tinyurl.com/zqb2op9 ).

Olson said violators need to face stiffer penalties, saying they are essentially being allowed to buy their way out of crimes.

“To me it’s fairly heinous,” Olson said.

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Information from: The Cody Enterprise, http://www.codyenterprise.com

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