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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2005

Chisholm fur trapper charged after Internet sting

Bob Von Sternberg, Star Tribune

November 3, 2005

A trapper from Chisholm, Minn., has become ensnared in a court case that could cost him $11,200 in fines and more than three years in jail.

Roderick R. (Rick) Kottom, 56, was arraigned last week on trapping and natural resource violations in St. Louis County District Court.

According to officials of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Kottom was caught by a combination of old-fashioned North Woods shoe leather and high-tech Internet sleuthing.

"This case was kind of like peeling an onion," said department spokesman Rich Sprouse. "His name was not unknown to our enforcement officer. And the Internet has opened all kinds of doors for this kind of thing."

The department's conservation officers had been keeping track of Kottom since 2002, even as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had been setting up an Internet sting in late 2003.

The federal agent had answered an advertisement on the Web placed by someone calling himself "Papa Fisher" who was offering to sell fisher and pine marten pelts that had been trapped in Minnesota.

After conferring by e-mail and telephone, the agent bought six fishers and two pine martens for $380 and reported that Kottom told him, "I caught those marten."

Meanwhile state officers had been monitoring two trap sites in the woods near Chisholm and found that neither had the identification required by state law.

Using unspecified surveillance techniques, the officers watched a man they identified as Kottom visit the traps and remove dead animals.

Last Dec. 14, they seized about 16 fisher pelts and 21 pine marten pelts from Kottom's home. None was tagged or registered as required by state law, and Kottom does not have a license to buy or sell furs in Minnesota.

Kottom, who has not yet entered a plea in the case, did not return calls seeking comment.

He has been charged with a failure to check traps, a gross overlimit of wild animals, possessing a marten in a closed season, unlawfully buying or selling wild animals and failing to provide identification of traps or snares.

"A lot of undercover work was done in this, and like a lot of these cases, our best set of eyes are the other trappers out there," Sprouse said.

Bob von Sternberg 612-673-7184

Copyright 2005 Star Tribune. All rights reserved

UPDATE: SEE FOLLOW UP ARTICLE: MN - Busted for illegal trapping

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