Photo courtesy of FWC.
We’ve said it before, and we’ll probably say it again: Wildlife criminals aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.
And the life of today’s fish and game law enforcement officers has gotten so easy and laid back, all they have to do is sit at their desks and surf social media websites to help them implicate poachers and other wildlife ne’er-do-wells.
Of course, I’m being facetious about wildlife officers and their workload—but not about the cranial fortitude of poachers and game thieves.
Last week, an anonymous tip led Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission (FWC) authorities to four men after a Facebook post showed two of them posing with freshly taken wild turkeys and one with an alligator.
Travis Clayton McFatter, 27, Blake Dalton King, 20 and Zachary David Espenship, 20, all of Lake City, and Dustin Wayne Parrish, 26, of Lulu, were cited by FWC officers.
When investigators interviewed McFatter, he admitted killing five turkeys during the season, as well as taking two birds in one day. The legal daily bag limit is one turkey, and the season bag limit is two birds.
“Mr. McFatter also explained he picked up the road-killed alligator near his house,” said FWC Investigator Todd Hoyle. “He took the gator home, snapped a few photos and ate the meat.”
During his interview with investigators, King admitted killing four turkeys.
“Mr. King gave permission to search his truck, and investigators found fresh blood in the bed and on the tailgate of his pickup,” Hoyle said. “He told us that he and his friend, Mr. Espenship, were headed home from their hunting club and saw a deer standing on the shoulder of the road. Mr. Espenship then shot the deer.”
Espenship admitted to killing the deer while it stood in the headlights of the truck. He gave investigators four bags of deer meat and the .22-caliber Winchester rifle he used to kill the animal.
When investigators interviewed Parrish, he admitted taking three gobblers—two on the opening morning of spring turkey season and one bird on Easter morning.
In all, after a 2-day investigation, FWC officials issued a total of 13 misdemeanors and two infractions.
“This is a great case and shows how our investigators and officers work together, as well as how important it is for us to follow up on complaints we receive,” said Capt. Martin Redmond, FWC area supervisor.
Capt. Redmond neglected to mention another thing the case showed: that there’s no brainwork required by poachers—but plenty of it was used by wildlife officers and investigators.