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Area men accused of killing gray wolves

February 9, 2012

By Travis Morse, JournalStandard.com

Under state law, wolves are ‘threatened’ animals

Galena, Ill. — Two area men face misdemeanor charges in Jo Daviess County for allegedly shooting gray wolves, which are protected as a “threatened species” under state law, said County State’s Attorney Terry Kurt.
 
Both alleged crimes took place on separate occasions last year in the southeastern part of the county. Charged were Jason Bourrette of Hanover and James Collachia of Fulton. Bourrette allegedly shot a wolf on Feb. 23, 2011, and charges were filed on Dec. 27, 2011. Collachia is accused of shooting a wolf on Nov. 19, 2011, and charges were filed against him on Jan. 18, 2012.
 
According to Kurt, both men are charged with unlawful taking of an Illinois threatened species, which is a Class A misdemeanor that is punishable by a maximum fine of $2,500 and/or a 364-day jail sentence. The charges were filed after witnesses to the shootings contacted authorities.
 
Kurt said his office decided to issue a news release on these cases because of the rarity of this type of crime.
 
“It was odd that we had two (of these cases),” Kurt said. “We thought we should comment on it.”
The law does allow for the shooting of wolves under special circumstances, such as a resident who is using “reasonable force” to defend his property, Kurt said. These two cases do not qualify for such an exemption.
 
Kurt added that there is a clear difference between a wolf and a coyote, and that if hunters are not sure, they should not shoot the animal.
 
“Everyone says, ‘I thought it was a coyote,’ but the differences between a wolf and a coyote are quite clear, and anyone who is not sure, should not be attempting to kill the animal,” Kurt said in a news release issued by his office.
 
Each year, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources publishes Hunting and Trapping Regulations, the news release states. On page 28 of this year’s guide is an article called “Don’t Shoot a Wolf!” that contains clear information about the differences between coyotes and wolves, the release states.
 
Still Protected
 
Last month, new guidelines went into effect that removed federal Endangered Species Act protection for gray wolves in portions of the Midwest, including north of I-80 in Illinois. Even so, gray wolves are still covered by the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act throughout the state, so the partial removal of federal protection in Illinois has no effect on the animal’s status here, said IDNR officials.
While it is rare for hunters and trappers in Illinois to come across gray wolves, it has occurred. Joe Kath, endangered species manager for the IDNR, has said that occasionally young male wolves from Wisconsin will disperse from their packs and try to establish new packs elsewhere, sometimes in northern Illinois.
 
Court Hearings
 
As for the two men charged in Jo Daviess County, Bourrette has a follow-up hearing on March 1 and Collachia has a hearing set for March 7, Kurt said.

Collachia does not have an attorney at this time, but Bourrette is being represented by attorney Thomas Nack. Nack was unavailable for comment.

Illinois citizens who encounter a wolf in the wild should contact the IDNR at (217) 782-6302. Wolves resemble coyotes, but are taller, heavier, and have other characteristics that set them apart.

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