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Montana men sentenced for killing mountain lion in Yellowstone National Park

(NPS / Connor Meyer)

Three Montana men have been sentenced in federal court for illegally killing a mountain lion in Yellowstone National Park in 2018.

The men, Austin Peterson, Trey Juhnke, and Corbin Simmons, were convicted May 3, 2019 for violating the Lacey Act in Yellowstone National Park, which prohibits hunting in the park.

The men, from Livingston, Montana, had been charged with illegally hunting a male mountain lion in the northern section of the park, north of the Yellowstone River, December 12, 2018.

According to court documents, Peterson, Juhnke, and Simmons, crossed the park’s marked boundary to hunt mountain lions. Each hunter admitted to shooting the lion and transporting the carcass back to their vehicle.

Simmons then falsely claimed to have harvested the animal north of the park boundary in Montana. This affected the state’s quota system by denying a legal hunter the opportunity to legally harvest a lion.

Peterson, 20, was ordered to pay approximately $1,700 in restitution and fees, and must serve three years of unsupervised probation, during which time he is banned from hunting, fishing, or trapping worldwide.

Juhnke, 20, and Simmons, 19, received similar sentences at hearings in April 2019. All three pleaded guilty to the charges at prior court hearings.

Under the Lacey Act, it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of US or Indian law or in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law.

Though seldom seen by the public, biologists estimate that 20-31 adult cougars reside year-round in the northern range (an average of 12-18 females and 8-13 males). These estimates are based on field surveys and statistical analyses conducted from 2014–2017. Biologists found higher estimates in the later years of the study.

The numbers do not include kitten and sub-adult cougars which accompany a portion of the adult females each year. Monitoring efforts since 2017 suggest a stable population consistent with these estimates for previous years.

-Information provided by the Yellowstone National Park News Service

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