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WI: Wardens Accused of Illegal Baiting

April 30, 2010

Ducking Justice? Wardens Accused of Illegal Baiting

DNR Wardens in Waupaca County are accused of illegally hunting Canada geese and ducks. One Warden even wrote himself a ticket for the crime. Still, despite evidence from the US Fish and Wildlife Service investigation, the case was dropped.

The nearly 250 page report suggested the DNR Wardens broke the law. Earl Clement says the kill was not right. "It was not a fair chase, they were hunting over bait." Clement said.

Clement says he reported his suspicions to the DNR back in the fall of 2006. His concern? Hunters on property owned by William Rosnow were knowingly using corn silage to attract and kill ducks and geese. "I went to my local warden to discuss the matter with him to find out if it was illegal or not."

Earl's suspicions prompted an independent under-cover investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Special cameras were set up to record the field in question. Caught on tape, the camera recorded images showing acres of silage with corn kernels. The field even attracted other wildlife like deer and wild turkey.

Then, the bust. Labeled a sensitive case, the special agents field documents revealed the following: "Five hunters were found hunting by the corn silage...interviews...revealed that additional hunters hunted over this corn silage including Wisconsin Conservation Wardens."

"These are people are supposed to know the laws and know the rules and regulations." Clement told us.

At least three of the hunters were reportedly connected to the DNR. They all maintained their innocence. During interviews documents show they;"Denied knowing corn silage was spread on [the] land." But just weeks before the bust, one of the accused hunters, DNR Warden Todd Wippermann, investigated a hotline complaint about the same property. The accusation was baiting.

Wippermann's one page report found: "No bait is present." But the Fish and Wildlife investigation disagreed with that finding. After the bust, Warden Wippermann seemed to as well.

Wippermann wrote himself a $530 dollar citation for hunting waterfowl over a baited area.

Then when the US Attorney's Office dropped the case. Wippermann had Waupaca County Court dismiss the ticket.

NBC26 asked Wippermann about the issue, his response: "It's a long story, there's my supervisor. I'm not going to say a word right now."

His supervisor, DNR Warden Carl Mesman, says Wippermann wrote the ticket not because of guilt, but for work reasons. "Because this took a lot of his time he could get back to doing his job. It was an interpretation of a law a differing interpretation of a law by multiple agencies."

It's one reason the US Attorney's Office dropped the case. Assistant US Attorney Tim Funnell told NBC26: "We simply did not have enough evidence to support our burden of proof." An expert hired by the US Attorney's Office said the case was; "A stretch because a hunter may not recognize corn silage as being bait."

But Clement argues they weren't your average hunters. They were trained professionals who should've known better. Now, nearly four years later he is still looking for a real resolution. "I felt that justice should've been served and in this case it wasn't at all. It seemed to be brushed under the rug."

The US Attorney's Office says there was no special treatment because the defendants were DNR Wardens. And a side-note, it was a DNR Warden who after Clement's complaint, called in the Fish and Wildlife Service to investigate the case.

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