HELENA — A former Townsend outfitter pleaded no contest to six misdemeanors following a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ investigation into four mountain lions taken in 2012.
LaMonte Schnur, owner of Monte’s Guiding and Mountain Outfitting, was ordered by Justice of the Peace Kirk Flynn on Feb. 17 to pay $3,000 in fines plus surcharges and more than $900 in restitution. Schnur also received a suspended jail sentence and forfeited his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for six years.
In 2012, Schnur outfitted mountain lion hunts that FWP investigated on suspicion that four lions were harvested on lands outside of his Montana Board of Outfitters-approved operating plan. The Montana Department of Justice later charged Schnur in an 18-count indictment, alleging that he hired unlicensed guides and misrepresented the kill sites as lands within his approved plan.
In the plea agreement, Schnur pleaded no contest in Broadwater County Justice Court to misdemeanor counts of unlawful possession of a game animal by accountability, criminal trespass to property, providing a false statement on a license application and three counts of unprofessional conduct of an outfitter.
Schnur’s attorney, Fritz Gillespie, provided the following statement regarding the plea.
“His decision to enter no contest pleas to a third of the charges was made with support of his medical care providers and was a very difficult decision for him and his family. The evidence in the case for both parties was extensive, technical, complicated, and often confusing or difficult to follow. Given his age and his health, after more than 2-1/2 years he ran out of the emotional energy and the financial ability to continue the fight.”
Schnur had pleaded not guilty to all charges and in a letter to the board of outfitters, maintained his innocence and was critical of a previous Independent Record article that he felt purported his guilt.
Schnur, licensed since 1971, later signed an agreement with the board that allowed him to outfit last year with stipulations that he refund two of the lion hunts, pay an administration fee and permanently surrender his outfitting license at the end of 2015.
Although left with a sour taste in their mouths, the lion hunters were cleared of wrongdoing and the lions seized as evidence will be returned, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Varns said in an email. Two of the hunters indicated they would hunt in Montana again if assured a reputable outfitter, he added.
“This case demonstrates the seriousness that FWP and the Attorney General’s Office place on protecting wildlife resources for all Montanans,” Varns wrote. “In addition, it demonstrates why it is important that outfitters be held accountable for their actions, as none of the hunters involved realized that the law was being broken, although a few were very unhappy with the circumstances of their hunt.”