Meeker outfitter gets prison time in ‘grievous’ case
A Meeker outfitter described as having a “grievous disregard for wildlife laws” and “a considerable lack of ethics” faces more than three years in federal prison after being convicted of felony wildlife violations.
Dennis Eugene Rodebaugh, 72, owner of D&S Outfitters in Meeker, was found guilty in U.S. District Court in Denver of six violations of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the transportation of illegally taken wildlife across state lines.
He was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and also must pay $37,390 in restitution to the state in addition to forfeiting two all-terrain vehicles and a trailer used in the crimes.
Rodebaugh’s conviction follows a six-year investigation by Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, between 2002 and 2007 Rodebaugh and his employee, Brian Douglas Kunz, 56, of Wisconsin, used hundreds of pounds of salt to attract elk and deer to areas where he previously built tree stands.
Rodebaugh then guided paying clients to those areas where the hunters could shoot the baited animals from the stands.
According to the indictment, Rodebaugh earned nearly $250,000 from the illegal hunts during the period of the investigation. However, wildlife officials say he may have earned much more during the approximately 20 years he operated his outfitting business.
“This individual showed grievous disregard for wildlife laws, a considerable lack of ethics and he never expressed remorse,” said lead investigator Bailey Franklin, district wildlife manager in Meeker. “It took tremendous resources and man-hours to bring him to justice and we are very satisfied with the sentence.”
Baiting wildlife is illegal in Colorado and most of Rodebaugh’s clients were out-of-state hunters.
“This outfitter advertised a 90-percent success rate and drew numerous archery and rifle hunters from across the country,” Franklin said.
Rodebaugh must also pay a $7,500 fine to the Lacey Act Reward Fund.
District Judge Christine Arguello also ordered Rodebaugh to end his outfitting business and pay for the reclamation of more than 40 sites in the White River National Forest where the salt he placed damaged the environment.
He also faces the possible loss of his hunting and fishing privilege for life. Such suspensions also are honored by the 38 other states belonging to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact.
Kunz was charged as an accomplice and after pleading guilty to two misdemeanor Lacey Act charges was fined $2,000 and given one year probation.
According to the indictment, most of Rodebaugh’s clients were unaware of the illegal activity. “This individual risked the health of wildlife and caused damage to their habitat,” said Parks and Wildlife Northwest Regional Manager Ron Velarde. “He willfully violated numerous laws and placed his clients in legal jeopardy. Our officers worked very hard to solve this case and we believe justice was served.”
Parks and Wildlife investigators first learned of Rodebaugh’s activities in 2005 when local sheep and cattle ranchers reported finding large salt deposits under tree stands in the White River National Forest.
Velarde says assistance from livestock raisers illustrates the importance of the public’s help in solving wildlife-related crimes.
Anyone suspecting a wildlife crime can contact the local Parks and Wildlife office or call Operation Game Thief at 1-800-265-6648. Informants may remain anonymous and rewards are available for tips that lead to an arrest or citation.