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MailTribune.com
  • Shady Cove man faces federal wildlife charges

    Authorities claim poaching ring set up cougars for illegal hunt
  • A Shady Cove man will travel to Denver next week to face federal charges that he trapped, snared and even maimed cougars so out-of-state poachers could kill them during illegal hunts in Colorado and Utah late last decade, federal court records state.
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  • A Shady Cove man will travel to Denver next week to face federal charges that he trapped, snared and even maimed cougars so out-of-state poachers could kill them during illegal hunts in Colorado and Utah late last decade, federal court records state.
    Nicholaus Rodgers, 30, was ordered to appear Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver to face seven felony wildlife charges for his alleged role in the 2008-09 poaching ring authorities said was orchestrated by Rodgers' outfitter boss, Christopher Loncarich.
    A federal indictment accuses Rodgers of using collapsible traps or snares to capture cougars in the field, then releasing them when Loncarich's unlicensed clients were nearby.
    Some of the cougars were shot in a paw before they were released from cages, while others were held in place by a snare undetected by the poaching clients who shot from a distance, the indictment states.
    On Feb. 6, 2009, in Utah, Loncarich allegedly shot and wounded a caged bobcat, which Rodgers then released so it could be shot and killed by a client, who happened to be an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, the indictment states. That bobcat was then taken illegally to Colorado and falsely reported as shot there, the indictment states.
    Rodgers was indicted Jan. 7 on seven felony counts of violation of the federal Lacey Act and one count of conspiracy, but he was not arrested.
    Rodgers' attorney, Justin Rosas of Medford, said he arranged for Rodgers to appear Monday in U.S. District Court in Medford, where he was arraigned, released and ordered to appear in federal court in Denver.
    His case will be handled by a Denver lawyer there, Rosas said.
    The Lacey Act bans the transport of illegally killed or obtained wildlife over state lines and also makes false recording of such wildlife a crime.
    Rodgers entered not-guilty pleas on the charges during his Monday appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke.
    Rosas declined to make Rodgers available for comment.
    Loncarich, meanwhile, pleaded not guilty Tuesday in federal court in Denver to a 17-count complaint outlined against him in the same indictment charging Rodgers.
    Loncarich, 55, operated his outfitting business out of Mack, Colo., and was licensed to guide in Colorado and Utah, the indictment states.
    Rodgers worked seasonally for Loncarich from January 2006 to March 2009, court records show.
    The indictment makes reference to four unindicted and unnamed co-conspirators, though two were identified as Loncarich's daughters and one a son-in-law, all of whom worked for Loncarich. The fourth co-conspirator was identified only as a former guide.
    Lacey Act violations can lead to up to five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 each. Federal prosecutors in the case filed papers stating they do not intend to seek detention of either Rodgers or Loncarich if they are convicted.
    The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has no records of Rodgers buying a hunting license in the state, and records show he has no criminal history in Southern Oregon.
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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