NEWS BRIEFS foe Monday, August 5, 2019

Alabama man charged with 42 game violations

GILLETTE (WNE) — An Alabama man pleaded not guilty last week to 42 big game violations that he is accused of committing over a 10-year period in Campbell County.

Russell “Rusty” B. Vick, 54, could spend up to 31 years in jail and pay up to $218,000 in fines if convicted of all the misdemeanor crimes.

Among the charges are 20 counts of illegally taking a game animal without a license or during a closed season involving buck antelope, buck mule deer, bull and cow elk from 2003 to 2012, according to charging documents.

They also include 13 counts of fraudulently getting or trying to get big game hunting licenses and three instances in which he allegedly killed elk or was around people who killed elk over their limit.

The investigation started in 2015 over the illegal purchase of a Wyoming resident hunting license by Vick and others, which evolved into a federal case, according to an affidavit of probable cause. That led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service getting search warrants for several homes — including Vick’s Buhl, Alabama, home and taxidermy shop — as officials sought cellphones, computers, documents and taxidermy that linked him and others to big game violations.

Game and Fish investigators also were able to determine that Vick had lived in the same area in Buhl since 1985 despite the fact that he used a Wyoming address to apply for hunting licenses. He had never lived in Wyoming the requisite 365 consecutive days, according to the affidavit.

Starting in 2004, Vick began buying Wyoming resident hunting licenses and through the years got or applied for about 30 licenses or preference points, according to the affidavit.


Bighorn Forest, lodge agree to re-open Burgess visitor center

SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Burgess Junction Visitor Center reopened after a years-long closure Thursday thanks to a partnership between the Bighorn National Forest Service and Arrowhead Lodge.

BNFS Public Information Officer Sara Evans Kirol said Arrowhead will take over operations of the facility, which the BNF still owns. Arrowhead’s involvement will allow Burgess to function as both a visitor’s center and an event space.

“We’re excited to have it back open and have a partner,” Evans Kirol said. “For me, personally, it’s such a great, beautiful building and I’m glad to see it being used.”

Evans Kirol said the BNF struggled to pay the overhead costs of operating Burgess Junction after it lost its  management partnership with the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

She explained the termination of that partnership cut off the income BNF earned through Burgess Junction. Rocky Mountain had sold merchandise through the visitor center and the BNF is not allowed to sell that merchandise on its own.

The center opened briefly in 2017 when the U.S. Forest Service had to close the Shell Falls Interpretive Site for reconstruction. Before that, however, Evans Kirol said Burgess Junction had been closed since 2012.

“We were looking for a partner to reopen the visitor center because we could not function (the center) without assistance,” Evans Kirol said. “And [Arrowhead] stepped up.”

Charlene Severson — who purchased Arrowhead Lodge with her husband, Jared, in 2016 — said the BNF reached out to Arrowhead shortly after she took over to discuss a partnership that would reopen Burgess Junction.


PETA honors K-9 officer for saving young boy

ROCK SPRINGS (WNE) — A Heroic Dog Award from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is being sent to Deputy Jara, a K-9 with the Sweetwater County Sheriff ’s Office who rushed to save a 4-year-old boy who had gone missing from his home on June 28. 

When Jara’s partner, Deputy Sheriff Derek Morrell, heard about the missing child, he and Jara reported to the scene. While searching the neighborhood, Jara suddenly began dragging Morrell toward a parked car, where they found the boy stuck and screaming, having apparently locked himself inside, according to a press release. It was 88 degrees outside and the temperature was quickly rising inside the car, but officers freed the boy and reunited him with his mother before he was seriously harmed.

“Deputy Jara’s keen nose and sense of duty likely meant the difference between life and death for this terrified little boy,” PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien said. “PETA encourages anyone who’s inspired by her heroism to consider providing a dog who’s waiting at a local animal shelter with a lifelong home.” 

PETA is sending the Sweetwater County Sheriff ’s Office a framed certificate along with a “doggie bag” of toys and vegan treats for Jara to enjoy. PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” — opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview.