Mack outfitter pleads guilty to maiming, hunting wildlife
A Mack outfitter charged in a scheme to capture and maim mountain lions and bobcats, which allowed for an easier hunt for paying clients, pleaded guilty today in Denver federal court.
Chris Loncarich, 55, faces a maximum possible five years in federal prison, and a fine up to $250,000, after pleading guilty Friday to one count of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. He’ll be sentenced Nov. 20 by U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello.
A co-defendant in the case, Nicholaus Rodgers, 31, of Medford, Oregon, faces the same possible penalties after pleading guilty to the same charge last month. Rodgers will be sentenced Nov. 7.
Loncarich and Rodgers were charged in January with a 17-count federal indictment in a scheme to first capture and sometimes injure animals to be released for paying hunters to kill. The hunts happened between 2007 and 2010 on hunting trips in the Bookcliff Mountains of Colorado and Utah.
Loncarich would allow clients to shoot animals without a license and falsify records for animal hides that were presented to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the indictment said.
Authorities allege Loncarich and Rodgers would trap mountain lions and bobcats, sometimes shooting the animal in the paw or placing them in a leg hold, and release the animals out of sight of hunters. Sometimes guides would make a “show” to the clients of tracking the animals, though they knew the animals had been previously caged or restrained nearby. Loncarich and Rodgers would radio each other to set the hunter up in the correct location to shoot an animal, according to court documents. The scheme was uncovered after an undercover agent booked two hunting trips with Loncarich. During those incidents, a mountain lion had been previously shot in the back leg before the agent was instructed to shoot it. In the other incident, a bobcat had been previously shot with a small-caliber bullet in a paw and its hip.
According to the plea agreement, Rodgers agreed the fair market value of the wildlife taken is between $30,000 and $70,000.
Four other assistant guides in the scheme have pleaded guilty to charges in the case.