There are few things that rile hunters more than reports about persons who thumb their noses at wildlife laws and shoot big-game animals out of season or otherwise illegally.
In a hunter's eyes, the one thing that's worse than a poacher is a habitual poacher.
Colton Lapp, 19, is the first person to be charged under Wyoming's new felony poaching law, which became effective in July, 2011. Lapp is charged with illegally killing four mule deer bucks and shooting at another near Thermopolis after earlier poaching convictions.
The new law allows prosecutors to pursue felony charges on those convicted of poaching three times within a 10-year period.
If the readers of this blog think that Lapp's name sounds familiar, that's because a story about his earlier poaching exploits appeared here about 6 weeks ago. On January 28, he was sentenced to a year's probation, suspended jail time and fined $5,040 as an accessory to poaching.
In 2011, the then 18-year-old Worland resident was convicted of poaching a trophy mule deer scoring 210 6/8 Boone and Crockett points and fined more than $9,000. As part of his sentencing, Lapp's hunting, fishing and trapping privileges were suspended for 5 years and he received 6 months of probation.
Under each of the new felony charges, Lapp faces up to 2 years in prison, no less than $5,000 or more than $10,000 in fines, as well as the other penalties. In addition, he could forfeit his right to vote, carry firearms and run for public office. If convicted on all charges, Lapp could face more than 12 years in prison and thousands in fines and restitution.
Speaking to the "Casper Star-Tribune" this week, Wyoming's head game warden, Brian Nesvik, said it's cases like Lapp's that prompted the state warden's association to fight for the new felony-poaching law.
“This individual has repeatedly committed some of the most egregious wildlife violations,” Nesvik said.
Nesvik said he is hopeful that Lapp's conviction and subsequent fines and jail sentence could help deter future serial-poaching incidents in the state.
Lapp is presently free on a $10,000 bond in Hot Springs County on the poaching charges, as well as a $10,000 bond from Big Horn County and a $5,000 bond in Park County for charges associated with violating conditions of his probation for the previous crimes.