Friday, April 20, 2007

Alleged Calif. poachers of cougar, other wildlife plead no contest

By Leslie Parrilla

Four South County men were ordered Wednesday to pay thousands of dollars in fines and serve probation after pleading no contest to a list of poaching charges.

William Benjamin Wineman, 54, William Joshua Wineman, 26, and Ernest Christopher Wineman III, 56, all of Nipomo, and Randal Paul Hermreck, 55, of Arroyo Grande were cited in January 2006 for violating misdemeanor hunting laws after they used bait to lure wild ducks into kill zones.

A no-contest plea results in a conviction without the accused admitting guilt.

The charges the men faced include using bait for taking waterfowl, using a shotgun that holds more than three rounds, taking waterfowl without the appropriate state stamp on their licenses, and possessing waterfowl killed with a toxic

shot, typically of lead, according to state Department of Fish and Game officials.

Each of the men was ordered Wednesday to pay $5,000 in fines and was sentenced to three years of probation, which includes having their hunting privileges revoked for three years.

"I think it sends an important message about protecting wildlife and game," said Deputy District Attorney Mya Thiesmeyer.

The 2006 citations capped a two-year investigation by state Fish and Game Warden Todd Tognazzini, who noticed that ponds on Hermreck’s property in the Cougar Canyon area near Lopez Lake were littered with shotgun shells, waterfowl feathers and wheat grain.

During a search of the men’s homes, hundreds of doves were seized, along with ducks, quail, pheasants, a whole mountain lion, a mountain lion skull, improperly tagged deer antlers and deer meat.

Two of the men’s sons, who were juveniles at the time, faced multiple charges of illegally baiting and killing ducks in addition to other game violations. They were held responsible for the charges in juvenile court shortly after the incident, according to Tognazzini.

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