MANISTIQUE - More details have been released about the killing of a cougar last year in Schoolcraft County.
Three suspects from Bay and Saginaw counties involved in the Dec. 9 illegal killing of a cougar appeared on March 5 in Schoolcraft County District Court where they were arraigned on warrants related to the killing. Two of the suspects pleaded guilty and the third entered a not guilty plea.
Troy Robert Richard, 42, of Bay City, pleaded guilty to the taking/possession of an endangered species and conspiracy to take an endangered species. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a three-year revocation of all hunting privileges, $5,775 in fines, court costs and restitution including expenses to preserve the animal for educational purposes. Richard also forfeited the weapon involved in the taking of the animal and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service.
Theodore Robert Richard, 68, of Munger, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the illegal taking/possession of an endangered species and paid $1,725 in fines and costs, had all hunting privileges revoked for a period of two years and received 96 hours of community service.
Todd Anthony Richard, 43, of Burt, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to take/possess an endangered species. He owns and operates a taxidermy business in Bay County and is a brother to Troy Richard.
The incident occurred at the Richards' hunting camp in Germfask Township near Seney on Dec. 9, 2013. Investigation revealed the animal was shot from the subjects' camp when it walked into a deer food plot and drove the deer out while the subjects were muzzleloader hunting for deer. The animal was wounded by Troy Richard with a centerfire 22-250 caliber rifle and it then fled the food plot. It was tracked and located approximately one-quarter mile away the following day and killed.
The investigation also revealed Troy and Theodore Richard then brought the animal back to their camp where they field dressed it and hid it. They proceeded to cook and eat part of the heart. They left for their homes in Bay County shortly after, with the animal intact but field dressed in the back of Troy Richard's pickup truck. Troy Richard reported that he struck a deer with his truck after leaving the camp. He picked up the deer, put it in a trailer with other deer they had killed. They transported it to the Michigan State Police post in St. Ignace where he obtained a permit for the roadkill deer - all while having the cougar in the truck's bed under a tonneau cover so that it could be hidden from view. DNR investigating officers noted Richard had ample opportunity to report the cougar killing at this point, but failed to do so.
Troy Richard returned to his residence with the cougar where the animal was skinned and prepared for mounting. The skull was also boiled and preserved; the remains of the carcass were disposed of.
It was discovered when the Richards learned that Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers knew about the poaching, they attempted to hide the evidence at another location. During the investigation, the Richards gave many false statements and had officers searching several areas in the U.P. where they claimed to have disposed of the entire cougar and repeatedly denied that they took the animal home with them. The cougar hide, which had been prepared for mounting, and the skull, were eventually recovered, and the entrails of the adult male cougar were also found at the Richards' camp. The suspects ultimately admitted the crime and related it as one of opportunity - a once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a cougar in Michigan and have it mounted. Cougars are on the Michigan endangered species list and are a protected animal that may not be hunted.
Anyone with information on any other poaching case may call the DNR's Report All Poaching (RAP) Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 800-292-7800. Information can be left anonymously. Information can also be provided online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. Information leading to an arrest and conviction is eligible for a cash reward funded by the Game and Fish Protection Fund.