In 2019, a sting operation in Wyoming found a poacher in possession of multiple packages of processed poached wildlife meat labeled ‘beef jerky.’ Authorities recently banned the man from hunting in 49 states until he pays $45,000 in penalties.
In Sep. 2019, two undercover agents with Wyoming Game and Fish paid Gary Lee Ferrier for his permission to hunt on his private land. While posing as hunters on his property, the agents would discover a grisly mix of animal remains.
Their findings led to a Dec. 10 search that turned up evidence of mule deer and antelope poaching. The final report ultimately resulted in 26 charges against him.
Fast forward to July 19, 2021. Ferrier pleaded no contest to nine of the 26 charges in an agreement with the Natrona County District Court.
In a statement last week, Wyoming Game and Fish reported that he lost hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges in Wyoming and 48 other states for at least 5 years. In order to regain those privileges, he will also have to pay his full $45,070 in fines and restitution.
First reported by the Casper Star-Tribune, investigators in the 2019 sting operation heard him describe illegal hunting and saw poached animals decomposing in a shed on his property. They also received beers from Ferrier with antelope hair and blood stuck to the cans.
Agents even noted that he brought a poached cottontail rabbit to a dinner the three shared.
Court documents show the investigators also received several packages labeled “Organic Beef Jerky” from Ferrier. The affidavit says the packages were “identical” to others that Ferrier marketed and sold via Facebook.
Search and Seizure Produces Illegal ‘Beef Jerky’
When the department searched Ferrier’s Grazing Hills Ranch property and interviewed him that December, he told authorities that he had started selling poached antelope jerky to “get himself out of a bad situation.”
Court documents do not elaborate on the “bad situation.” But the Star-Tribune interviewed an ex-girlfriend, who said Ferrier had “fallen out” with a jerky processor he’d previously worked with on a legitimate basis.
Ferrier estimated that he had sold 15-30 bags of illegally harvested jerky on Facebook Marketplace. However, investigators found that he also sold four cases to a convenience store outside Casper, Wyo.
The search turned up 75 “professionally packaged” bags of jerky ready for sale. Forensic analysis found that they contained up to six different animals including antelope and mule deer — and no beef. It also revealed a burn pile containing multiple antelope and mule deer carcasses on Ferrier’s property, many of which displayed “multiple edible portions wasted.”
Finally, investigators determined that a group of nonresident hunters had paid Ferrier $1,500 to hunt mule deer and antelope on Grazing Hills Ranch without licenses.
Charges and Penalties Against Poacher
Natrona County District Court found the poacher guilty of killing a buck mule deer and a buck antelope without a license and during a closed season. It also convicted him of two accessory charges of killing another buck mule deer and buck antelope. Two counts of wanton destruction of big-game animals and three counts of selling game meat completed the charges.
Ferrier’s restitution, due to the Wyoming Wildlife Protectors Association, totals $22,000. State-imposed fines amount to $23,000.
All 49 states in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact are part of Ferrier’s trapping, hunting, and fishing ban. The organization lists four states as “in process,” and Hawaii is the only non-participating state.