Details released in cougar killing

MANISTIQUE – New details have been released by the Department of Natural Resources in the cougar killing case in Schoolcraft County.

Three suspects from Bay and Saginaw counties involved in the Dec. 9 illegal killing of an adult male cougar appeared in Schoolcraft County District Court this week and were arraigned on warrants related to the killing.

Two of the suspects pleaded guilty and the third entered a not guilty plea.

Troy Robert Richard, 42, of Bay City, pleaded guilty to the taking/possession of an endangered species and conspiracy to take an endangered species. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, a three-year revocation of all hunting privileges, $5,775 in fines, court costs and restitution including expenses to preserve the animal for educational purposes.

Richard also forfeited the weapon involved in the taking of the animal and was ordered to serve 120 hours of community service.

Theodore Robert Richard, 68, of Munger, pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting the illegal taking/possession of an endangered species and paid $1,725 in fines and court costs, had all hunting privileges revoked for a period of two years and received 96 hours of community service.

Todd Anthony Richard, 43, of Burt, pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to take/possess an endangered species. He owns and operates a taxidermy business in Bay County and is a brother to Troy Richard.

The crime occurred at the Richards’ hunting camp in Germfask Township near Seney in Schoolcraft County on Dec. 9, 2013, DNR officials said.

The investigation revealed the animal was shot from the subjects’ camp when it walked into a deer food plot and drove the deer away while the subjects were muzzleloader hunting.

The animal was wounded by Troy Richard with a center-fire 22-250 caliber rifle and it then fled the food plot. It was tracked and located approximately one-quarter mile away the following day and killed.

The investigation also revealed Troy and Theodore Richard then brought the animal back to their camp where they field dressed it and hid it, the DNR said. They proceeded to cook and eat part of the heart. They left for their homes in Bay County shortly after, with the animal in the back of Troy Richard’s pickup truck.

Troy Richard reported that he struck a deer with his truck after leaving the camp. He picked up the deer, put it in a trailer with other deer they had killed and transported it to the Michigan State Police post in St. Ignace.

Richard obtained a permit for the roadkill deer all while having the cougar in the truck’s bed under a tonneau cover so that it could be hidden from view. DNR investigating officers noted that Richard had amply opportunity to report the cougar killing at this point and failed to do so.

Troy Richard returned to his residence with the cougar where the animal was skinned and prepared for mounting. The skull was also boiled and preserved; the remains of the carcass were disposed of.

It was discovered when the Richards learned that DNR conservation officers knew about the poaching, they attempted to hide the evidence at another location.

During the investigation, the Richards gave many false statements and had officers searching several areas in the Upper Peninsula where they claimed to have disposed of the entire cougar and repeatedly denied that they took the animal home with them.

The cougar hide, which had been prepared for mounting, and the skull were eventually recovered. The entrails of the cougar were also found at the Richards’ camp.

The suspects ultimately admitted to the crime and related it as one of opportunity – a once-in-a-lifetime chance to kill a cougar in Michigan and have it mounted.

Cougars are on the Michigan endangered species list and are a protected animal that may not be hunted.

Anyone with information on any other poaching case may call the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Line 24 hours a day, seven days a week at (800) 292-7800. Information can be left anonymously.