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Contact: Jennie Kish Albrinck, 605-433-5240
Contact: Casey Osback, 605-433-5230
BADLANDS NATIONAL PARK, INTERIOR, S.D. - A healthy herd of about 800 bison can be found within Badlands National Park, about 10 miles west of Wall, South Dakota. The expanse of prairie grasses and rugged spires of Badlands National Park inspires reverence and nostalgia, and these bison are an integral part of Badlands history. An iconic symbol of the National Park Service, American bison can still face threats even in these protected places.
On November 15, 2010 Keith Jorgenson of Green Bay, Wisconsin, illegally shot and killed a mule deer buck in Pennington County, South Dakota. This started an investigation which uncovered how Joseph Wilmet, also of Green Bay, shot, killed, and butchered a large bull bison in Badlands National Park.
A cooperative law enforcement effort with Pennington County Sheriff's Department, South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, United States Attorney's Office, and National Park Service resulted in Wilmet being sentenced on October 5, 2012, and Jorgenson being sentenced on January 7, 2013, for the unlawful taking of wildlife.
Badlands Superintendent Eric Brunnemann stated, "Today we salute the agencies that investigated this case, prosecuted, and gave us these convictions. Two years and countless hours of investigative work exemplifies the dedication of these officers. This is government that works."
Jorgenson disclosed that he and Wilmet had been scouting for animals in the days leading up to the November 15, 2010 discovery of the buffalo and deer.
"The prosecution of these two men should serve as a notice to anyone involved in poaching in our state. We take wildlife crime seriously and we will continue our efforts to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute these offenses," said US Attorney Brendan Johnson.
Badlands Chief Ranger Casey Osback believes that "solid police work in the early phases of this case resulted in this victory over poaching in our national parks." Jorgenson and Wilmet were also found with carcasses from several additional deer. They stated they took the wildlife in the vicinity of Badlands and the town of Scenic, South Dakota.
The possession of traps or nets is not allowable within Badlands. The taking of wildlife is an illegal act, as is "[p]ossessing unlawfully taken wildlife or portions thereof (36 CFR§2.2(a)(3)). The National Park Service mission, as identified in the 1916 Organic Act is charged with the protection of "natural and historic objects and the wild life" in national parks. In most park units, hunting is specifically called out as a prohibited recreational use. Hunting is welcomed on some federal and state properties. Responsible hunters research regulations and follow appropriate guidelines, a practice Jorgenson and Wilmet did not honor. Jorgenson was sentenced to one year of probation and a $1,000 fine. He was ordered to pay $25 to the Victim Assistance Fund and $2,500 in restitution. Wilmet was previously sentenced on October 5, 2012.
By working together, the various land management and law enforcement agencies involved were able to successfully work within their differing missions to bring these poachers to justice. Badlands staff is extremely grateful that the perpetrators of the bison slaughter were convicted.
Badlands is one of four mid-west NPS units with American bison on the landscape. Brunnemann stated that "Anyone who has seen these majestic animals knows they are looking at our national history, our national icon."