Wyoming seeks Knoxvillian over slain big horn
McKean faces numerous poaching charges, failure to appear in court
By Bob Hodge (Contact)
Sunday, November 11, 2007
(The head of the bighorn sheep allegedly poached in Wyoming.)
A Knoxville man is on the lam from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for killing a big horn sheep.
Roger E. McKean, whose last known address was on Island Home Ave. in Knoxville, is being sought for allegedly shooting a bighorn ram and a doe mule deer near Dubois, Wyo. Scott Browning, a wildlife investigator for Wyoming Game and Fish, said there is a reward for information leading to McKean's arrest.
"The reason there is so much interest in this case is the state of Wyoming and the people of Wyoming view bighorn sheep as an extremely valuable resource," said Browning, who added Wyoming will attempt to extradite McKean when he is found. "Bighorn sheep are the pinnacle of big-game species in Wyoming."
McKean is facing eight charges in Wyoming that include taking a bighorn sheep out of season, waste of a bighorn sheep, shooting from a vehicle, shooting a mule deer out of season and shooting from a public road. He faces a maximum of $13,850 in fines, $19,000 in restitution for the two animals, 54 months in jail and losing his hunting privileges for up to 30 years.
McKean also has unspecified charges pending from the Wind River Indian Reservation for two antelope that were illegally killed.
Because Tennessee joined the Wildlife Violator Pact in November 2006, he also could lose his hunting privileges here.
Anyone with information about McKean's whereabouts can call Browning at 307-332-7732, ext. 241.
Joe Durnin, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency officer in Knox County, has been working with Wyoming officials in an attempt to locate McKean. Durnin said McKean has no record of violating wildlife laws in Tennessee.
"The first day I went to interview him he had a deer hanging in his shed that he killed on his father-in-law's property," Durnin said. "He had it properly tagged and was being cooperative."
Browning said McKean had driven back to Wyoming for a court appearance this year. The Wyoming investigator believes it was then McKean realized the gravity of the charges he was facing and neither he nor his lawyer showed up for a second court date in July.
"He worked with the (Tennessee) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officer and was cooperative and mostly forthright and would confirm information that we knew," Browning said. "He was on the right track to help himself, but since then he has derailed. He was going to get time (in jail) and I think he's freaked out about that and that's one of the reasons he didn't come back.
"I feel fairly comfortable saying that the prosecutor and judge - because he quit working with the state of Wyoming - will go harder on him than it would have."
According to Browning, McKean was in Wyoming looking for work in the oil fields late last year. He and Kelly Grove, who lives in Dubois, were in the Whiskey Mountain area when McKean allegedly shot a 3<0x2044>4-curl ram with a .243 rifle.
Wyoming officials believe McKean then removed the head of the ram and hid it, then returned to recover it.
Grove, who cooperated with authorities when questioned, pled guilty to his role in the poaching and was fined $2,490, ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution, had his hunting privileges revoked for three years, was placed on probation for one year and received a 30-day suspended jail sentence.
To get a license to legally hunt sheep in the Whiskey Mountain area takes up to 12 years for Wyoming residents and a minimum of 11 years for nonresidents.
In a statement released by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Dubois Game Warden Cole Thompson said McKean didn't set out to shoot a sheep the day of the incident.
"It's sad because McKean was in the Dubois area for less than a month and admitted he didn't even know what a bighorn sheep was until moments before shooting the animal," Thompson said.
Browning said all the violations McKean has been charged with took place in just a few days time.
"He came here to try and get a job and when that didn't work out they were out doing something else," Browning said.
© 2007, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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