Three hunters who illegally slaughtered a mountain lion in Yellowstone National Park last year have been convicted.
Austin Peterson, 20, Trey Juhnke, 20, and Corbin Simmons, 19, left a trail of evidence on social media which allowed authorities to track them down.
Bragging about their illegal kill, the trio uploaded celebratory photographs on their social media accounts – all of which were seen by other hunters who alerted wardens at the park.
While questioning Simmons about the incident, Yellowstone special agent Jake Olson reportedly told him they had tracked them down because of things they posted on their Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook pages.
You know, we ended up getting a lot of this information from a guy in Bozeman off of Facebook because you guys put a bunch of stuff on social media.’
The photos shared to their social media accounts were eventually deleted, but not before other hunters saw them and recognised the landscape.
Hunting is prohibited within the boundaries of Yellowstone National Park, and so hunters alerted game wardens when they realised this is where the shooting took place.
The men pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act of 1894, which bans the taking, selling, or purchasing of wildlife from protected areas. As well as the three year ban, the trio were each fined $1,666.
As per the investigation documents, all three men admitted to shooting the mature male mountain lion in Montana on December 12 last year, before taking it across the border to their vehicle.
They later changed their stories during individual interviews, contradicting each other on important details. For example, none of the men could agree on where they saw the boundary posts, where they encountered the cat, and who actually shot the animal.
Authorities later learned all three men had fired at the mountain lion, which was hit a total of eight times.
Yellowstone’s Chief Ranger Pete Webster thanked law enforcement in a statement, praising their ‘thorough’ work.
Their thorough work spotlighted this egregious act and the consequences incurred for hunting illegally in Yellowstone National Park.
Many took to social media in the wake of their lax punishments, with many criticising the government for ‘letting them off way too easy’.
Hopefully this incident will teach the men a lesson and they won’t do anything like this again.
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A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).