Violators convicted for illegally hunting elk near Arco
ARCO, Idaho (KIFI) - Idaho Fish and Game received intelligence that suggested members of the Curtiss Family have been illegally harvesting animals over multiple decades. With the dedicated help of four witnesses, three men were tried and convicted. They were found guilty and issued a total of 10 felony charges and 8 misdemeanor charges.
Each violator was fined $1,300, paid $6,000 in restitution, given a 10-year hunting and trapping license suspension and community service.
This story serves as a reminder there are repercussions for committing wildlife crimes and that being a strong witness for wildlife can be the key component to solve a poaching case.
On Nov. 2, 2021, the Curtiss group located a large herd of elk near Arc,. Two separate witnesses who were hunting the same elk herd that day called in and reported the incident. Travis Curtiss was driving a pickup truck while his father Donald shot at the elk from the passenger side window and his son Eben shot at the elk from the bed of the truck. The truck chased the elk herd for a considerable distance. During the chase, the men killed a rag horn bull, a cow, a spike, a calf and two mature bulls. The men drove past these other dying elk and collected the head, quarters, and backstraps of the last two killed mature bulls, leaving the rest to waste. The investigation confirmed that they had killed six illegal elk, and there was good evidence of another bull that was mortally wounded but officers were unable to locate it.
Conservation officers executed a search warrant on the Curtiss home, shortly after the group had returned home from the hunt, and recovered both bulls. The suspects initially agreed to talk with the officers, but quickly invoked their fifth amendment rights and refused to answer any questions. At this point the case may have gone unsolved, needing to be proven based solely on the evidence at the scene and witness observations and cooperation.
Witnesses to the rescue. The two witnesses who saw the incident take place both gave statements with detailed descriptions and testified in court. Later, a third witness helped officers in identifying the suspects by recording the license plate number of a truck that matched the description of the Curtiss vehicle the officers were looking for. Then as part of the investigation a fourth expert witness, a gun collector, was able to provide invaluable information for forensic analysis of the unique bullets shot by the Curtiss’s. All of these witnesses received monetary rewards from Citizens Against Poaching for their commitment and valuable support in reporting and convicting these violators.
With your help, officials can continue to catch poachers. If you witness a wildlife violation, call the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers may remain anonymous and those with information leading to an arrest are eligible for a monetary reward.