May 04, 2022
Owners of a private whitetail-hunting business in Wyoming have been ordered to pay $60,000 in restitution in a Lacey Act federal wildlife baiting case that first drew the attention of investigators more than a decade ago.
Wyoming Game and Fish Department said in a new release that Michael and Teresa Rinehart, formerly of Kinnear, pleaded guilty late last year for violations of federal wildlife trafficking laws.
They also were sentenced to one year of unsupervised probation and had their hunting privileges suspended worldwide for one year.
Specifically, the case involved illegal hunting over corn on both their own Wind River Whitetail Ranch and adjacent tribal-owned land. The wildlife agency said clients of the business hunted over corn and some transported killed game out of state. More charges are still possible.
The agency said:
"In 2011, Shoshone and Arapaho Fish and Game seized trail cameras on tribal lands near the boundary of Rinehart’s Wind River Whitetail Ranch. The Rineharts were non-native private landowners. The game camera photos showed the defendants putting out large piles of corn during the fall hunting season. The cameras and corn were located in shooting lanes in front of large, elevated permanent hunting blinds located on Rinehart’s property, situated on the boundary between the reservation and their property.
"The Shoshone and Arapaho Fish and Game wardens asked [Wyoming] Game and Fish law enforcement for assistance with the case as it appeared the Rineharts were illegally hunting deer over bait both on the reservation and on non-native private lands for their outfitting business."
Wyoming Game and Fish and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service joined the investigation, which determined:
- The Rineharts placed bait so clients could kill deer, violating Wyoming hunting regulations.
- Hunters were charged up to $3,000 per hunt. (Law enforcement contacted clients in 11 different states.
- Some clients also took over limits of deer and harvested deer without a license, among other crimes.
- Up to 30 clients could be charged with various wildlife violations in Wyoming state court.
The couple was charged with federal Lacey Act violations due to the value of the outfitted hunts and illegal taking and transport of game by nonresidents, Wyoming Game and Fish said.