Man Charged Under Wyoming Felony Poaching Law

Colton LappA 19-year-old Wyoming man is the first to face felony poaching charging under new state laws.

According to the Casper Star-Tribune, Colton Lapp faces five counts of felony poaching after allegedly killing four bucks and shooting at another near Thermopolis, Wyo., after being convicted of poaching twice before.

A Wyoming felony poaching law that took effect in July allows prosecutors, along with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to charge offenders with a felony if they have been convicted of poaching three times within a 10-year period.

First-time offenders can only be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a one-year prison sentence, up to $10,000 in fines, loss of hunting and fishing privileges for up to five years, and forfeiture of anything used during the crime.

However, for each felony count stacked against him, Lapp faces up to two years in prison, fines between $5,000 and $10,000, as well as possible forfeiture of his right to vote, carry firearms or run for public office. If convicted, Lapp could spend up to 12 years in jail.

The Star-Tribune reports that Lapp shot a large buck in November 2010 and entered the head into a rack contest. Officials entered a search warrant for that buck, then discovered a second carcass. A subsequent investigation turned up two more people, and Lapp was charged as an accessory. He was found guilty as an accessory in April, then found guilty again of the first poaching in December.

Then, on Dec. 29, Wyoming game warden Matt Lentsch was investigating a poaching case near Thermopolis when he spotted Lapp's truck with a gun in the window, and fresh animal blood and hair in the back. Under his probation agreement, Lapp was not allowed to possess firearms, but a search of his vehicle turned up more guns.

Lapp eventually confessed that he had shot and killed four deer and missed another, then cut the heads off three of the carcasses and dumped the bodies. Arrest records said Lapp told authorities he killed the deer to release "built-up anger and frustration."

"This individual has repeatedly committed some of the most egregious wildlife violations," said Wyoming chief game warden Brian Nesvik, adding that he believes a prison sentence would deter other poachers.

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