August 8, 2019
Alabama man charged with 42 game violations
GILLETTE (WNE) — An Alabama man pleaded not guilty last week to 42 big game violations that he is accused of committing over a ten-year period in Campbell County.
Russell “Rusty” B. Vick, 54, could spend up to 31 years in jail and pay up to $218,000 in fines if convicted of all the misdemeanor crimes.
Among the charges are 20 counts of illegally taking a game animal without a license or during a closed season involving buck antelope, buck mule deer, bull and cow elk from 2003 to 2012, according to charging documents.
They also include 13 counts of fraudulently getting or trying to get big game hunting licenses and three instances in which he allegedly killed elk or was around people who killed elk over their limit.
The investigation started in 2015 over the illegal purchase of a Wyoming resident hunting license by Vick and others, which evolved into a federal case, according to an affidavit of probable cause. That led the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service getting search warrants for several homes — including Vick’s Buhl, Alabama, home and taxidermy shop — as officials sought cellphones, computers, documents and taxidermy that linked him and others to big game violations.
Game and Fish investigators also were able to determine that Vick had lived in the same area in Buhl since 1985 despite the fact that he used a Wyoming address to apply for hunting licenses. He had never lived in Wyoming the requisite 365 consecutive days, according to the affidavit.
Starting in 2004, Vick began buying Wyoming resident hunting licenses and through the years got or applied for about 30 licenses or preference points, according to the affidavit.
Bighorn Forest, lodge agree to re-open Burgess visitor center
SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Burgess Junction Visitor Center reopened after a years-long closure Thursday thanks to a partnership between the Bighorn National Forest Service and Arrowhead Lodge.
BNFS Public Information Officer Sara Evans Kirol said Arrowhead will take over operations of the facility, which the BNF still owns. Arrowhead’s involvement will allow Burgess to function as both a visitor’s center and an event space.
“We’re excited to have it back open and have a partner,” Evans Kirol said. “For me, personally, it’s such a great, beautiful building and I’m glad to see it being used.”
Evans Kirol said the BNF struggled to pay the overhead costs of operating Burgess Junction after it lost its management partnership with the Rocky Mountain Nature Association.
She explained the termination of that partnership cut off the income BNF earned through Burgess Junction. Rocky Mountain had sold merchandise through the visitor center and the BNF is not allowed to sell that merchandise on its own.
The center opened briefly in 2017 when the U.S. Forest Service had to close the Shell Falls Interpretive Site for reconstruction. Before that, however, Evans Kirol said Burgess Junction had been closed since 2012.
“We were looking for a partner to reopen the visitor center because we could not function [the center] without assistance,” Evans Kirol said. “And [Arrowhead] stepped up.”
Charlene Severson — who purchased Arrowhead Lodge with her husband, Jared, in 2016 — said the BNF reached out to Arrowhead shortly after she took over to discuss a partnership that would reopen Burgess Junction.
Cheyenne man allegedly stabs victim with pitchfork
CHEYENNE (WNE) – A Cheyenne man has been accused of stabbing a victim with a pitchfork and then hitting him over the head with a lawn chair at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the 300 block of Evans Avenue.
Johnnie Richard Worsham Jr., 58, was arrested by Cheyenne Police on suspicion of aggravated assault and injury with a deadly weapon.
According to the police report, on Wednesday, Worsham and the victim allegedly got into an argument when Worsham was seen moving the victim’s belongings out of his residence. The victim confronted Worsham about throwing his belongings into the yard, and a fight ensued. During the fight, Worsham grabbed a pitchfork and stabbed the victim in the arm.
Worsham also grabbed a lawn chair and threw it at the victim’s head, according to police. Worsham told police that the victim ran into the pitchfork, which caused the injury.
Officers noted the victim’s injuries matched his story, and they found the pitchfork in the backyard covered in blood.
Worsham was transported to the Laramie County jail without incident.
Buffalo man convicted of poaching four elk
BUFFALO (WNE) — A Buffalo man has accepted a plea agreement from the Johnson County prosecutor’s office on charges of harassing and poaching four elk in the Bighorn Mountains. According to a press release from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, on June 24, Ray Ludwig signed a plea agreement for poaching four cow elk and harassing big game from a vehicle in November 2018. As part of the agreement, he will pay $5,000 in fines and restitution.
On Nov. 27, 2018, Game and Fish Warden Jim Seeman was contacted by two hunters who video recorded a vehicle chasing a group of elk in Hunt Area 35 south of Buffalo. The witnesses told Seeman they also heard multiple shots coming from the vehicle. When told that his vehicle had been witnessed chasing elk, with shots fired from it, Ludwig told Seeman that several of his friends who had Area 35 licenses were in the vehicle with him that day and they had killed three elk.
Seeman eventually determined that Ludwig was the only occupant in the vehicle at the time of the poaching and that he did not possess an elk license for Area 35.
Ludwig was charged with killing four big game animals without a license and harassing big game with a vehicle. In addition to $5,000 in fines and restitution, Ludwig’s hunting privileges are suspended in Wyoming and 46 other Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact states for five years.
Firefighters battle challenging conditions in Bighorn National Forest
SHERIDAN (WNE) — The Lick Creek fire continues to burn near Forest Road 147 and Trail 076 in the Bighorn National Forest with 0 percent containment. A saw line was completed despite challenging conditions, forest officials said.
In addition, new fires may have started near Story. Johnson County firefighters spotted several potential new fires between Story and Powder River Pass.
With hotter, drier weather forecast for the weekend, holdover lightning fires may emerge. Fire danger is trending toward high. Thunderstorms and high humidity will contribute positively to holding fires currently burning, a Thursday press release from the U.S. Forest Service said.
Dayton Volunteer Fire Department, Wind River Agency firefighters and the Wyoming State Forestry helicopter assisted U.S. Forest Service fire personnel on Lick Creek Wednesday.
The fire held to its current size of four acres overnight. Two firefighters suffered injuries. Both were treated at Sheridan Memorial Hospital and released Wednesday.
Part of the fire is in a steep canyon and inaccessible to firefighters. Thursday’s plan was to continue securing the line. Due to firefighter safety concerns in the dead timber, mop-up will be limited as fire-weakened trees are continually falling. Firefighters will monitor the inaccessible deep-canyon fire area.
The public is advised to remain out of the fire area. Forest Road 147 and Trail 076 have been temporarily closed, with an exception for the public to remove any trailers that may be down FR 147.
Remains of Yellowstone concession staffer recovered, identified
JACKSON (WNE) — Yellowstone National Park rangers have announced that remains found last year have been definitively identified as a 21-year-old seasonal concession employee who drowned four years ago in the Yellowstone River.
Feiyang “Isaac” Xiang, from China, was backpacking with friends in July 2015 near the confluence of Hellroaring Creek when he was swept away. His hiking partners told authorities at the time that he was struggling to stay afloat and disappeared from sight as the Yellowstone entered a long stretch of rapids.
Search and rescue crews tried to find Xiang for 12 days before scaling back their operation. The cold case of his missing body is now officially over.
“In February 2018 staff discovered human bones in the vicinity of the 2015 drowning site,” Yellowstone officials said in a statement issued Thursday. “Law enforcement officers collected the remains and sent them to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for DNA testing. In June 2019 the park received confirmation that the remains were of Xiang.”
The park kept in touch with Xiang’s family, who reportedly received some closure in July. They came to the park and returned to China with his remains.