Two of three men charged in the illegal killing of a cougar in Michigan's Upper Peninsula have pleaded guilty to being involved in the crime.
The animal was shot to death Dec. 9 in Schoolcraft County. Troy Richard, 42, of Bay City, pleaded guilty to the taking or possession of an endangered species. Theodore Richard, 68, of Munger, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the illegal taking or possession of an endangered species.
Troy's brother, Todd Richard, 43, of Burt, pleaded not guilty to conspiring with the others. He has his own taxidermy business in Bay County.
The Department of Natural Resources says an investigation found the killing happened at the Richards' hunting camp in Germfask Township. The cougar was shot by the men when it walked into a deer food plot and drove out all the deer while the men were muzzleloader hunting for deer. Troy Richard's centerfire 22-250 caliber rifle wounded the animal which then fled the plot.
The men tracked the cougar and found it 1/4 mile away the next day, where they killed it. According to the DNR, Troy and Theodore brought the cougar back to their camp where they field dressed it and hid it. Then they cooked and ate part of the cougar's heart.
WARNING IMAGE IS GRAPHIC: Click here to view a photo of the cougar carcass taken by one of the suspects
They never reported the cougar killing despite having what the DNR calls "ample opportunity" to do so. The DNR also says the men called the killing a "once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a cougar in Michigan and have it mounted."
Troy Richard was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a 3-year revocation of all hunting privileges, $5,775 in fines, court costs and restitution including expenses to preserve the animal for educational purposes. He also forfeited the weapon involved in the taking of the animal and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service.
Theodore Richard 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.
The Wildlife Division's specially trained cougar team welcomes citizen reports of possible cougar evidence or sightings. Cougar photos and other evidence – such as tracks, scat or cached kills – should be reported to a local DNR office or through the DNR's online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.
AP Story: Man says he killed cougar to protect father
The following is from the Associated Press:
Troy Richard tells The Bay City Times they were visiting his father's northeast Schoolcraft County hunting camp in December. As Theodore Richard walked to his blind to get a rifle, Troy Richard says he saw the cougar approaching his father.
The younger Richard yelled and shot the cougar when it didn't flee. The Bay City resident says he killed the wounded animal the next day and took its hide and skull.
The son says they must "deal with the consequences."
The account is not consistent with the DNR's investigation report.