No charge in coyote death for Ida official

June 20, 2002 at 4:35 PM
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BOISE, Idaho, June 20 (UPI) -- No charges will be filed against an Idaho wildlife commissioner who admitted he told a hunter to shoot a coyote without a permit earlier this year.

The Idaho State Police determined this week that no charges or citations would be issued because there was no physical evidence collected and no formal investigation conducted by the state Fish & Game Department into the allegation that Fish & Game Commissioner Roy Moulton had a professional hunter from Montana dispatch a coyote the pair spotted near Moulton's property last March.

The decision came at the culmination of an internal probe of the incident, which under state law cannot be used to provide evidence in a criminal investigation, according to the Idaho Statesman.

"Standard procedure is to not issue a citation based solely on testimony that a violation occurred, even if the testimony comes from the person committing the offense," Fish & Game Director Steve Huffaker said in a letter to Marcus Gibbs, chairman of the Fish & Game Commission. "If we issued such a citation and the defendant recanted the story at trial, the case would be dismissed for lack of physical evidence."

Hunter John Graham did not have an Idaho hunting license when he used Moulton's rifle to shoot the coyote in March. Graham had been invited to meet with Moulton in eastern Idaho to discuss a plan to thin out predators as part of a study to seen what the effect would be on the area's deer population.

Graham was hurriedly issued a special permit to kill coyotes after the shooting took place, which was later reported anonymously to the Fish & Game department as a poaching incident.

While the investigation led to no charges against Moulton, the seeming flouting of the rules by a Fish & Game commissioner could raise the stakes for Gibbs, who is one of two members of the commission whose terms expire June 30 and face re-appointment by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Gibbs has the backing of agricultural interests, but some Idaho sportsmen don't believe the commission adequately protects wildlife populations and that the commission's work has become overly politicized through the meddling of state lawmakers.

Kempthorne's adviser on natural resources issues, Jim Yost, told the Statesman this week that while Gibbs is likely to be reappointed despite the controversy, Clowers, who has the backing of the sportsmen's camp, is out of favor with the Republican governor, and candidates for a replacement are being sought.

"If he wants to turn in an application, he'd be considered," said Yost. "But you know, he hasn't been complimentary of the governor."

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