Four men charged with poaching raccoons - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Four men charged with poaching raccoons


AUDUBON (KWWL) -- Three men have pleaded guilty to poaching at least 72 raccoons and selling their hides for money.  A fourth is awaiting trial.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources says Ben Petersen, 18, Scott Downer, 19, and Chris Groninga, 20, all of Audubon, pleaded guilty to their roles on December 30, 2010.

A fourth man, Michael Sonntag, 19, also of Audobon, has asked for a jury trial, which will happen later this month.

Petersen pleaded guilty to not having a furharvester license, using artificial light to hunt, illegal method of take and failure to pay the habitat fee.  Petersen must pay $1,400 in civil penalties and his hunting privileges will be suspended for three years.

Downer pleaded guilty to illegal method of take.  He will pay $2,250 in civil penalties and his hunting privileges will be suspended for two years.

Groninga pleaded guilty of two counts of illegal method of take.  His civil penalties total $1,400 and his hunting privileges were suspended for two years.

Sonntag is charged with illegal method of take.  He faces additional charges for allegedly shooting a buck without the proper licenses in 2009, and allegedly shooting a doe with a rifle and leaving it to waste in 2010.  He faces fines and damages of nearly $83,000 and the loss of hunting privileges.

Jeremy King, state conservation officer, says the men were using spotlights to find the raccoons then shot them.  He says they sold then their hides.  Raccoon pelts sell for between $5 and $17, depending on the quality.

A number of people came forward with information on the Turn In Poachers, TIP, line.  The officers used that information to observe the men in action in early November.  The poaching took place primarily in Audubon County, but also in Harrison, Shelby and Guthrie counties.

The DNR seized a number of items including guns, spotlights, traps and deer antlers.

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