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Darby man loses Montana hunting privileges for life for poaching

November 17, 2010

Darby man loses Montana hunting privileges for life for poaching

HAMILTON - A Darby man convicted of poaching six animals will never again be able to hunt legally in the state of Montana.

Mark Thornton, 45, was sentenced Wednesday in Ravalli County District Judge Jeffrey Langton's court for unlawful possession of game animals and unlawful possession of a moose.

He was the second of two Darby men charged with poaching a moose and its calf in 2008 and shooting deer from the porch of their Darby apartment.

The men lured the animals close to the building with bait.

Chad Moen, 37, lost hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life and was sentenced to serve 30 days in the county jail for his part in the crimes last week.

Thornton cooperated with authorities in the investigation and was not required to serve any jail time.

He moved to Montana from Missouri in 2005, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Warden Lou Royce. In 2006, he killed a bull elk with his bow right before the beginning of the general big-game season. He then obtained a duplicate tag and shot a second bull with his rifle that same year.

Besides the moose, Thornton killed a whitetail buck from his porch in Darby in 2008 and at least two mule deer bucks in HD 270 that same year.

Hunters are required to obtain a special permit to hunt in HD 270, which Thornton did not have. He also killed a third mule deer buck in the same district in 2007 or 2008.

Langton initially balked at accepting a plea agreement in the case because it did not contain a provision for a lifetime loss of hunting, fishing and trapping privileges.

"He didn't feel that Mr. Thornton should ever be able to hunt again," Royce said.

Thornton claimed that he killed the animals on public ground to feed his family. Royce said the judge believed if everyone did that, there would be no animals left.

Thornton will be required to pay $5,000 in restitution for the four deer and one elk. Restitution for the moose will cost an additional $1,000.

Langton also sentenced Thornton to a total of $3,250 in fines.

On the unlawful possession of game animals, Thornton was handed a five-year suspended sentence to the Montana Department of Corrections. On the moose charge, Langton deferred imposing a sentence for two years.

Thornton also lost his right to hunt, fish or trap or to accompany anyone doing the same for the rest of his life.

"We were very happy with the outcome, especially with the loss of privileges for both guys," Royce said. "That serves as a huge deterrent for people in the future who might consider shooting and killing this many animals illegally.".

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