Undercover taxidermist catches 425 wildlife violations

Monday, July 19, 2010 | 7:52 p.m. CDT; updated 11:01 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 19, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — The sign on the storefront said "Craig's Taxidermy," and the hunters who brought in their prized deer, turkey and fish got them back stuffed and mounted.

But they also got secretly recorded. And ultimately, many of them were busted for allegedly breaking Missouri wildlife laws.

The Department of Conservation announced Monday that it had discovered 425 wildlife violations committed by 68 people who brought animals into Craig's Taxidermy in the rural southern Missouri town of Birch Tree.

It turns out "Craig" actually was an undercover agent.

The state Conservation Department set up the undercover taxidermy shop in 2008 after receiving numerous complaints about illegal hunting in the area, said Gary Cravens, the department's regional supervisor for law enforcement operations. The state agency closed Craig's Taxidermy early this year — but only after its hidden video and audio recorders captured plenty of evidence.

As customers came into the shop, "we were listening to them," Cravens said. "They were bragging about how they shot out of so-and-so's yard or off the road, or claiming it as archery even though it had a bullet hole."

As it turned out, 62 percent of the wildlife brought in for mounting at the undercover taxidermy shop had been killed illegally in some manner, Cravens said.

The cases are being turned over to prosecutors in seven counties — Crawford, Dent, Miller, Howell, Iron, Oregon and Shannon — where the hunting occurred, the department said. Although the taxidermy shop was in southern Missouri, some hunters brought animals from other parts of the state.

The alleged violations involved deer, turkey, various animals hunted for their fur, fish, and migratory birds. Conservation agents seized 240 items, including 90 mounted deer heads or antler racks, about 20 various smaller animals, 70 frog legs, one rattlesnake and 16 firearms.

"These violators are, in effect, stealing wildlife that belongs to all of us here in Missouri who obey the laws," Cravens said, "and it's our job to make sure that wildlife resources are protected."

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Gianna Volpe July 20, 2010 | 8:34 a.m.

Interesting story! Glad to know that the Conservation Department is doing stuff like this to make sure hunters are harvesting responsibly...Is it called harvesting even if you hunt something and don't eat the meat?

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock July 20, 2010 | 10:03 a.m.

Gianna other than Coyotes, foxes, and other fur being animals that may have been taken I am pretty sure that the animals were consumed.

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Gianna Volpe July 20, 2010 | 12:19 p.m.

I see- thank you for answering my question (well sort of). After I commented, I looked further into how handling/removal/ transference of meat from an animal to its hunter or interested party when taxidermists are involved.

I learned about how meat is consumed by others should said hunter not be interested in the meat of their hunt. However, what I was really asking was if the term "harvest" should be used in the case of describing the taking of an animal by a hunter who is interested solely in the hide and not the meat.

My belief is that the consumption of the meat by another party denotes that the animal was, in fact, harvested, (though this would be more difficult to state as a fact if the hunter and the consumer were not the same party)

I was just curious as to how the jargon generally works- Are hunters without consumption of meat in mind when taking animals more likely to have their hunts labeled as animals being "taken" than "harvested?" Or is an animal "taken" interechangeable with an animal "harvested."

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock July 21, 2010 | 5:08 p.m.

Well I wouldn't get too wrapped up in the terms used. Even though words do have a profound impact on how people view things. I mean think about the term "Slaughter" vs "Processing." Both involve cutting up a animal and packaging it for consumption but I am willing to bet one sounds more PC than the other to some people.

(Report Comment)
gary morse July 22, 2010 | 1:51 p.m.


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