WY: State biologist pleads guilty to hunt violation
State biologist pleads guilty to hunt violation
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Date: April 24, 2009
A 32-year veteran of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department pleaded guilty
Thursday to a misdemeanor charge stemming from a hunting incident on the
National Elk Refuge.
Habitat biologist Steve Kilpatrick told 9th Circuit Judge Timothy Day he
made an error in judgment during a Dec. 14 hunt after his hunting partner
Dr. Jim Champa made the killing shot on a bison injured by another hunter.
Kilpatrick said he, his son Josh and Champa observed roughly 500 bison on
the east side of Long Draw, roughly two miles from where they were hunting
on horseback and mule. Kilpatrick said other hunters fired numerous shots
into the herd, prompting the bison to break into two smaller groups.
Kilpatrick said his hunting party intersected the bison but let both groups
pass because the animals were still moving and too far away for a clean shot
or a clean identification.
Kilpatrick and Champa then noticed a single bison about a half-mile away.
“It was obvious that it was injured, [it had its] head down and [was]
limping,” Kilpatrick said.
He said he asked Champa, who carried a permit to shoot a cow, if he would
be willing to harvest an injured bison.
“He said, ‘Yes, it was the ethical thing to do,’” Kilpatrick said.
Champa then shot the animal, not realizing that the bison was a young
At that point, Casper resident Shane Rinker and his mother approached
Kilpatrick’s hunting party. Kilpatrick used his cell phone to call Wyoming
Game and Fish game warden Bill Long and explained the situation, telling him
“we” killed the injured bull bison. Kilpatrick discussed the situation with
Rinker, who, according to Kilpatrick’s testimony, thought he might have
injured the animal.
“He gave the impression he was excited ... that the bull was put down and
that it was his,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick then called Long and explained that Rinker was claiming the
After the incident, Champa used his permit to harvest a cow bison.
Kilpatrick told the court that later that day Rinker approached him in a
“He was obviously a little more assertive and concerned,” Kilpatrick
said, explaining that Rinker told him he felt pressured into tagging the
After more discussion, Rinker again accepted the bison as his own,
according to Kilpatrick’s testimony.
“He said he felt more comfortable now,” Kilpatrick said.
Rinker later filed a complaint with the department against Kilpatrick.
Champa was then charged with taking more than the limit of big game
because he killed two animals and Kilpatrick was charged with being an
In court, Kilpatrick apologized for the incident, saying he didn’t
provide Long with enough details for him to make a good decision. Kilpatrick
said he should have requested assistance at the kill site instead of trying
to resolve the issue himself.
“I’m sorry I erred in judgment,” he said. “I overstepped my authority.”
Prosecuting attorney Brian Hultman asked Day to give Kilpatrick “as much
consideration as you can.”
Day waived a $410 fine, fined Kilpatrick $30 and ordered him to perform
40 hours of community service.
Champa also paid a fine.
Kilpatrick has received numerous local, state and national awards for his
conservation work. He has one previous violation, which he received after
advising his daughter to shoot a moose. Kilpatrick later determined the
moose was in the wrong hunt area and turned himself in.
Return to Hunting Accident Index
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