Before drying out a hide or staining antlers, taxidermist Scott Guenther makes hunters sign an affidavit.
In it, they promise that they’ve truthfully described the animal, any markings it may have, the date and location of the kill, the date it was taken to the taxidermist’s shop, and the hunter’s name and address.
The paperwork is expensive and full of duplication, said Guenther, who owns Gunner’s Taxidermy outside of Casper.
Taxidermists keep nearly identical information as part of their regular record-keeping as business owners, said Rusty Bell, a Gillette taxidermist and treasurer of the Wyoming Association of Taxidermy Artists, which has worked with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to find a solution.
That solution is House Bill 38, which would eliminate the requirement for the affidavits. It would also eliminate the interstate game tags with unique identification numbers. Taxidermists buy the tags for $8 apiece from Game and Fish and issue them to hunters once the affidavits are signed.
The bill has one more vote in the Senate before it could become law.
But the Wyoming Game Wardens Association opposes the bill, said association member Daniel Beach. The group understands the taxidermists’ complaints about the paperwork and expense, but it wants to continue to require game tags because they help investigators find illegal hunting, Beach said.
“It’s an easily traceable way for us to keep track of wildlife,” Beach said.
Under existing law, interstate game tags are required for species hunted in Wyoming or species hunted out of state that also live in Wyoming.
A caribou, for instance, doesn’t need an interstate game tag because the animal isn’t in Wyoming, Guenther said.
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Especially troubling to the Game Wardens Association is an amendment to the bill that would require investigators to give a taxidermist 48 hours’ notification before inspecting records.
While most taxidermists are reputable, 48 hours would give taxidermists who accept poached wildlife time to manufacture records, Beach said.
“It has nothing to do with commerce,” Beach said. “It’s basically making game wardens jobs’ harder.”
Bell, of the Association of Taxidermy Artists, said that if hunters are not present, taxidermists have to sign affidavits promising all the information is true.
That happens when out-of-state hunters ship animals to their favorite taxidermist, who happens to be in Wyoming, or when out-of-state hunters take animals in Wyoming, deliver them to a meat processor, then go home.
Taxidermists are left signing the affidavit when they pick up the animals from the processor, Bell said.
“If there happened to be something wrong on the affidavit, then we’re liable because we signed it,” he said.
Wyoming taxidermists are finding themselves with more out-of-state business because they’re talented, Bell said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department was initially concerned about its ability to track wildlife. However, the bill lets the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission establish rules to ensure that wildlife is tracked without interstate game tags, said Brian Nesvik, the chief game warden for Wyoming.