A Courtland man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges stemming from the trapping of dozens of bobcats and gray foxes in a 900-square-mile area of Lassen and Modoc counties.
The plea brings to an end a nearly two-year investigation of the most extensive illegal trapping effort known in recent California history, said Lassen County game warden Nick Buckler.
Tracy Lee Schultz, 57, was fined $5,000 and given a year’s probation, during which he will be banned from hunting, trapping and fishing.
On Jan. 31, 2013, game wardens searched Schultz’s home in Courtland and a relative’s residence in Modoc County where he stayed on trapping trips. They seized evidence and roughly $14,000 worth of pelts. The pelts were sold and the profits turned over to the Lassen County Fish and Game Commission.
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Buckler believes Schultz had been illegally trapping bobcats for a decade before his arrest, making upward of $15,000 each season.
Buckler began investigating Schultz in 2012 after receiving an anonymous tip. Buckler spent the 2012-2013 trapping season tracking Schultz as he visited his bobcat traps.
“I was living on the ground or in my truck, freezing my tail off and chasing this guy around, every single night,” Buckler said.
Though Schultz was licensed to trap bobcats and operated legal traps, his cages were so widespread that he could not check them for animals each day as the law requires.
Sometimes, Buckler said, bobcats were left in cages as long as three nights.
“Many, many nights it was 15 to 30 degrees below zero,” Buckler said. “After a couple days, it can have some very adverse impacts on animals.”
To conceal that he was operating more traps than he could check each day, Schultz falsified records he submitted to game wardens. He also started trapping before the official beginning of the season.