U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement officers received word two years ago that several dogs had eaten poison and died just east of Dubois.
The domestic animals, out on walks near the East Fork of the Wind River and Horse Creek drainages, came down suddenly with diarrhea and were vomiting and convulsing. They were rushed to the East Fork Veterinary Services in Dubois, but didn’t make it.
When Fish and Wildlife Special Agent Steve Stoinski learned of the poisoned pooches, an investigation found there were also many more wild casualties of the poison: a bald eagle, a golden eagle, a Swainson’s hawk, 14 ravens, 17 magpies, a coyote and several small mammals. He worked the January 2018 incident for two years before going public Friday with a request for information.
“We’re hoping that someone [will be] motivated enough by dead pets and poisoned wildlife to give us a call,” Stoinski said. “But it’s a shot in the dark.”
If helping nab the person who deposited the poison-laced meat isn’t enough motivation, there’s also a cash reward for information that leads to a conviction.
The federal agency put up $2,000 for the reward, and its state counterpart, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, offered up to $5,000 more. A Fremont County resident also pledged $3,000, bringing the total reward pot to a maximum of $10,000, Stoinski said.
Wildlife crime officials have a history of investigating illegal poisonings — including incidents that killed dogs — in western Wyoming. Stoinski’s best guess is that the deadly compound distributed near the East Fork and Horse Creek was intended to target one of the region’s controversial large carnivores, grizzly bears or wolves.
“After 22 years of investigating people putting poison out, they always have a reason for it,” Stoinski said. “I don’t think that they were targeting ravens and magpies.”
There have been high-profile attempts to poison wolves that backfired and killed pet dogs instead. Between February and May 2004 poisoned meat left out in the Buffalo Valley and near Salmon, Idaho, killed at least seven dogs and sickened at least 13 others, according to a report in High Country News. In the preceding months an ammunition manufacturer and Salmon resident named Tim Sundles published an article titled, “How to Successfully Poison Wolves.” That deadly recipe was also published in March 2004 in a shopper printed in Riverton.
This time, poison-laced baits were scattered at the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s Spence and Moriarity Wildlife Management Area, a place full of big game and hunted often, Stoinski said. The culprit may have been someone who wasn’t welcoming of the competition, he said.
“It’s a game management area on state land and everybody hates wolves,” he said. “Let’s not kid ourselves.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced the reward and call for information in a press release issued Friday.
“Illegal poisoning can indiscriminately kill any wildlife or pet that feeds on poison-laced baits,” the federal agency’s statement said. “It is a crime that can result in tragic and far-reaching consequences, endangering wildlife, pets and even humans.”
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and Wyoming Game and Fish are also assisting with the investigation. Tips can be phoned to Fish and Wildlife’s local law enforcement office at 307-332-7607 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the incident can also be conveyed via text by texting “WGFD” to TIP411 (847-411).