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BLM Range Specialist Kills Cougar Caught in His Trap


A Bureau of Land Management (BLM) employee who illegally trapped and shot a female cougar in San Juan County appeared in the 7th District Court in Monticello on June 4 with his son, who helped to skin the animal.

David G. Williams, of Moab, is a rangeland management specialist for the Bureau of Land Management.

Following an investigation, the 61-year-old told the Utah Division of Wildlife Services in January that he shot and killed a cougar after he caught it in a leg trap near the town of La Sal.

“I’m sorry I did it, uh, [it was] a last minute thing … the cougar was in a trap, I got excited and I killed it.” David Williams told the court during his plea and sentence hearing,

Harvesting cougars in the state is legal with a valid permit, but using traps to harvest cougars in the state is illegal. Officials working on the case in San Juan County said there are only two legal forms of harvesting cougars in the state, and neither involves trapping. Permitted hunts must involve either “spot and stalk,” or the use of hunting dogs.

Kendall Laws, San Juan County prosecuting attorney, handled the case.

“If you catch a cougar in a trap, you have to actually let it go,” Laws said, specifying that all live traps, snares, foot traps and kill traps are illegal to use in harvesting cougars in the state.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Services (DWR) filed charges against Williams in San Juan County after he admitted to harvesting the cougar in a trap.

Court records show he was charged with the wanton destruction of protected wildlife, and obstructing justice, each a class A misdemeanor. The complaint was filed on February 23. On the same day, a complaint was filed against Williams’ 37-year-old son, Brandon, for aiding and assisting in the wanton destruction of protected wildlife, also a class A misdemeanor.

Father and son both answered to the charges on June 4.

In a plea and sentence agreement with the state, David Williams plead guilty to the charge of wanton destruction of protected wildlife, a class A misdemeanor, and the obstructing justice charge was dismissed. In court records, Williams wrote, “I shot and killed a cougar I trapped in a leg-hold trap intended to catch bobcats. Used (a) snare to take cougar. Cougar should have been released. Happened in San Juan County on or about January of 2018.”

His sentencing order is two years of probation, a $400 fine and a $400 restitution payment. A one year jail sentence was ordered, but suspended, by 7th District Court Judge Lyle R. Anderson. After one year, the court may move to reduce the misdemeanor charge to a class B, court documents said.

Brandon M. Williams, of Moab, plead guilty to the charge of aiding and assisting in the wanton destruction of protected wildlife. He wrote on the record, “On or about January of 2018 helped my father skin a cougar which was trapped and not let go.”

His guilty plea is held in abeyance for one year, during which time he must not be charged with any crimes that result in convictions.

Read Full Article: BLM Range Specialist Pleads Guilty to Illegal Killing of Cougar

Photo: North American cougar (Mountain lion). [Image from Wikipedia commons]

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