Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Game Warden Files--Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

There were always bears. Sometimes illegally killed, sometimes nuisance, sometimes both; but never a year went by without having some involvement with them. I've been close enough to smell their bad breath and had the slack coming out of the trigger of my shotgun when one defensive momma-bear was charging a State Trooper--fortunately for her, she stopped in time. I've chased them around camprounds, out of dumpsters and made arrests for the illegal taking...yeah, lots of bear stories.

I had two lion dealings, one with a cub in a pen who loved to get his forehead scratched. I obliged him and as I was drawing my hand out he bit me--very gently--and just sort of dragged his teeth off my fingers. He didn't draw blood, but just wanted to remind me who was boss. He belonged to a local animal farm, and may be still there to this day.

The other lion was actually a mountain lion. He belonged to a guy who had a scientific collector's license and so could lawfully possess it and display it for educational purposes. However, he just didn't follow the rules about how he had to keep it and what he could do with it. He'd take it out on a leash in public places--considering that an educational display--and just became a pain in the neck. We'd get complaints every month or so about it and one time got one report in which he was so out of line I finally had something on which to take an action.

I cited him for violating the terms and conditions of his permit and offered him a civil compromise--a cheap one--with the condition that he would abide by the department's understanding of the terms of his permit instead of his own. If I'd had to take it to trial, it would have meant getting a very reluctant witness into court so I was happy that he took the offer and settled up. After a while, the novelty of having the big cat wore off and word got to me that he parted with his cougar. I was not unhappy about that.

And then there was the tiger.  My lieutenant called me to tell me that a local guy had taken a tiger to a local vet to have it de-clawed and to get its shots. The only problem was that he had no permit from the department to have a tiger. We documented the possession and then went to have a chat with the owner of the young tiger cub.

This fellow had built quite an elaborate housing facility for it, was keeping it in a reasonably fit manner; and claimed to have had some training (watching educational TV about keeping big cats) but it was flat out illegal for him to have it. It was easy to see why he'd had the cat de-clawed. On a rack near his door was a pair of Carhart coveralls shredded!  I guess kitty played hard!

We did an in-place seizure, wrote him a ticket and dug in to prepare for trial. After many court appearances he took a plea agreement and forfeited the cat. The day we picked it up I managed to get my arm a bit too close and got some scratches to show for my effort--she used my arm for a teething ring!   The tiger ended up at the same animal farm where I'd met the lion some time before. The owner always told the story and gave a good lesson about the incident when he gave tours of his farm.

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