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MI UP: Pickford man loses hunting privileges, jail time, over $36,000 in fines

By Taylor Worsham

CHIPPEWA COUNTY — A Chippewa County man accused of poaching numerous animals, including 18 gray wolves, was sentenced Tuesday, Oct. 13 under a plea agreement.

Kurt Johnston Duncan, 56 of Pickford, pleaded guilty in September to seven poaching crimes following an investigation by conservation officers from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Lieutenant Reid Roeske of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ special investigations unit said the investigation against Duncan began with the discovery of several dead and injured animals caught in snares in the Pickford area in May 2019. Conservation officers worked diligently to identify the suspect and gather the evidence needed for prosecution. Search warrants were served in March. During the investigation, Duncan was connected to 125 wildlife misdemeanor crimes. During an 18-month period, Duncan committed numerous wildlife crimes of various species, including wolves, bald eagles, deer, turkey and bobcat.

Chippewa County District Court Judge Eric Blubaugh sentenced Duncan to:

  • Pay $36,240 total: $27,000 as reimbursement for the animals illegally taken and $9,240 in court fees and costs.
  • Lifetime revocation of all hunting and trapping privileges in Michigan; including that he may not assist anyone else in any hunting or trapping activities. With this privilege revoked, he will not be allowed to hunt in 48 states that are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
  • 90 days of jail time, 30 of which will be held aside should he violate probation.
  • 18 to 24 months probation.
  • Forfeiture of all items and evidence seized by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources during the execution of search warrants, including firearms and snares.

“This is a historical case for the division and department,” said Chief Gary Hagler of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Law Enforcement Division. “We hope this poaching case acts as a deterrent to criminals for committing future wildlife crimes such as this. Our officers did an excellent job working as a team and building this investigation so it could move quickly through the criminal justice system.”

According to Reid, to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ knowledge, this is the largest wolf poaching case in the United States. The fines and restitution are also some of the largest they have seen.

On Sept. 24, Duncan accepted a plea agreement offered Chippewa County Prosecutor Robert Stratton. Duncan pleaded guilty to:

  • Three counts of the illegal take; possession of wolves.
  • Three counts of the illegal take; possession of bald eagles.
  • One count of illegal commercialization of a protected species (wolf).

According to the Detroit News back in July, Linda Duncan, 61 of Pickford, was notified to appear in court July 15 for arraignment on three misdemeanor violations of the state’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act. She allegedly made and sold necklaces with wolves’ teeth and prepped their pelts and skulls. Her charges were dismissed in the plea agreement with Duncan.

“The entire investigation was difficult,” said Reid. “The easiest part was working with Chippewa County Prosecutor Rob Stratton and his staff. They worked hand in hand with us throughout the investigation. We could not have gotten the results we did without them.”

Anyone witnessing a natural resources crime or having information about such a crime is encouraged to call or text the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.