October 20, 2010
Investigation Was a Joint Effort with the California Department of Fish and Game
In August of 2008, California Fish and Game Wardens received an anonymous report via CalTip about suspected poaching activity in the Virginia Canyon area of Yosemite National Park. Based on this tip, the National Park Service (NPS) and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) opened a joint investigation. As the investigation progressed, Chad Gierlich, his 14-year old son, his brother Chris Gierlich, and Kyle Narasky were identified as suspects.
"Protection of our park's resources remains our first priority. It is our duty as stewards of the National Park Service to protect our natural resources for all Americans, and this includes our wildlife," said Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher. "The National Park Service will prosecute all poachers to the furthest extent possible. I would like to thank the California Department of Fish and Game and Warden Chad Elliott, specifically, for their invaluable assistance."
“With dogged determination, Warden Elliott and National Park Service Rangers brought California’s most determined poachers to justice,” said Assistant Chief John Baker, of DFG’s Fresno office.
On August 28th, 2008, a Warden and a Yosemite National Park Ranger were on a stake-out at Yosemite’s boundary at Summit Lake. During this stake-out, the four suspects were stopped at 5:30 a.m. as they were sneaking out of the park. The Gierlich's and Narasky claimed they were on a week-long backpacking trip, yet they did not have the appropriate equipment. Due to the conversation with the suspects, Rangers and Wardens later returned to the area several times to search for evidence of poaching.
On September 13th, 2008, a Fish and Game Warden and a Yosemite Park Ranger, aided by the Warden's search dog, located multiple evidence items positively linking the Gierlich's and Narasky to the original CalTip report. These items included: the Gierlich's and Narasky's hunting licenses and deer tags, bows and arrows, digital memory cards, GPS units, backpacks, bags of rotten deer meat, three sets of deer antlers and a kill site. All of these items were located inside of Yosemite National Park, an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction.
A federal search warrant was executed on the electronic media found in the field. The evidence secured as a result of this search warrant led to the execution of a federal search warrant of Chad Gierlich's residence on January 11th, 2009. This search warrant was executed by NPS Special Agents and Rangers and Wardens of the California Department of Fish and Game. More evidence was seized during the execution of this search warrant including computers and the heads of two deer killed in Yosemite National Park in 2005 and 2007. Over the years, the Gierlichs had killed five trophy deer in Yosemite National Park.
Wardens of the California Department of Fish and Game initiated additional investigations on Chad Gierlich based on evidence seized off of the Gierlich's computers and GPS units that suggested multiple other poaching offenses including: four deer between Lake Perris State Park and Chino Hills State Park, and a deer and a javelina in Arizona in 2009. On Oct. 14, 2009, while under investigation for hunting within Yosemite’s boundaries, Chad Gierlich was cited for hunting with his son within the boundaries of Lake Perris State Park. Additionally, during the summer of 2010, he was cited twice by the California Department of Fish and Game for two independent fishing and boating violations. Additionally, Chad Gierlich was falsely reporting his poached deer to the California Bowmen Hunter's Association as legitimate kills and had several of his poached deer listed as records.
On September 1, 2009, Narasky was charged with six counts in Federal Court. Chad and Chris Gierlich were both charged with 17 counts in Federal Court.
Mono County charged Chad Gierlich with felony conspiracy, unlawful taking of a deer, failure to show game and device used to take game, waste of game, and contribution to the delinquency of a minor. Chris was charged with felony conspiracy, unlawful taking of a deer, failure to show game and device used to take game, and waste of game. Narasky was charged with felony conspiracy, unlawful taking of a deer, and failure to show game and device used to take game.
On May 25th, 2010, Narasky pled guilty to hunting in Yosemite National Park and possession of a weapon in the park. He was sentenced to a $7,500 fine, 24 months of unsupervised probation and forfeiture of all of his hunting equipment seized in the field. Additionally, Narasky agreed to stay outside of Yosemite National Park's boundaries for the duration of his probation.
On May 25th, 2010, Chris Gierlich pled guilty to 14 of 17 counts in Federal Court. These counts included three counts of hunting within Yosemite National Park, three counts of violating the Lacey Act and three counts of possession of a weapon within Yosemite National Park.
On May 25th, 2010, Chad Gierlich pled guilty to nine of 17 counts in Federal Court. These counts included three counts of hunting within Yosemite National Park, three counts of violating the Lacey Act and three counts of possession of a weapon within Yosemite National Park.
Chad Gierlich, Chris Gierlich, Kyle Narasky received sentences from Mono County Judge Stan Eller including up to 60 days in jail, between two and ten years hunting license revocation, three years probation, $1,000 fine, up to 200 hours community service.
On Tuesday, October 19th, 2010, Chad and Chris Gierlich were sentenced in Federal Court. Chris received sentencing including five years of supervised probation, 250 hours of community service, and 45 days of house arrest. Additionally, Chris is prohibited from hunting within the United States for five years, is not allowed to be in the presence of anyone hunting, and is not allowed to possess a bow and arrow.
Chad Gierlich’s sentence in federal court included five years of supervised probation and a $52,368 fine. Additionally, Chad is prohibited from hunting within the United States for five years, prohibited from being in the presence of other hunters, and is not allowed to possess a bow and arrow. He is not allowed in Yosemite for the duration of his probation.
The California Department of Fish and Game and the National Park Service extend their mutual thanks and appreciation for the assistance in bringing these serial poachers to justice. Only by working closely and cooperatively were successful prosecutions achieved. Additionally the NPS and the California Department of Fish and Game, wish to assure the people of California and the United States that we remain steadfast in our resolve to cooperatively and effectively protect our natural resources.
This multiagency investigation and convictions represents the most severe civil and criminal penalties ever associated with illegal hunting in the history of Yosemite National Park.