“He was catching the animals because he could and he ‘likes to do it’.”
Is there any better way to start your Saturday than with a nice, hot cup of schadenfreude? The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) recently busted 56-year-old Pickford resident Kurt Johnston Duncan for (allegedly) illegally harvesting three bald eagles and 18 wolves. The culmination of a months-long investigation, Duncan’s arraignment Wednesday morning on 125 wildlife misdemeanor charges gives real sportsmen everywhere a reason to grin with grim satisfaction.
Poachers come in a Baskin-Robbins 31-flavor assortment, and Duncan is arguably of the (alleged) worst kind. This isn’t some poor fellow taking a doe out of season because his cupboards are bare and his kids are hungry. Somehow, Duncan even (allegedly) manages to be more disgusting than the poachers who shoot trophy bucks for their antlers and leave the rest to rot and waste. This guy (allegedly) killed critters that are endangered and protected under both Michigan and federal law.
The most disgusting part? His motivation. DNR law enforcement detectives said that Duncan was using the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling, or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and “likes to do it.”
Now that we’re all nice and heated from reading that, here’s what’s on tap for the (alleged) poacher, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges. He faces:
- Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each wolf.
- Up to 90 days in jail and $1,000 fine for each eagle.
- Restitution of $1,500 per eagle and $500 per wolf.
- Up to 90 days in jail and $500 fine each for the other wildlife crimes.
Frankly, I’m a little surprised that the potential consequences are that mild. But there’s more good news: Conservation officers collected evidence to support the charges and identified additional suspects who are expected to be charged in the near future.
“We had a team of conservation officers that worked well together throughout this investigation,” said DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler. “Investigations like this require a long-term commitment from everyone involved. I want to thank the prosecutors in this case who worked with our officers. We are happy with the outcome and hope this case sets an example to prevent future natural resource crimes.”
The Chippewa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is seeking $30,000 in restitution to the state for the illegally taken animals. Duncan’s cash bond is set at $500. Other conditions of Duncan’s bond include having no contact with co-defendants, no possession of a firearm or dangerous weapon, and no engaging in hunting or fishing.
Anyone witnessing a natural resources crime or having information about such a crime is encouraged to call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.