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Male cougar

A male cougar like this one was illegally killed by three Livingston hunters in December.

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Three Livingston men were recently sentenced in federal court for hunting and killing a mountain lion in the northern section of Yellowstone National Park in December.

According to court documents, Austin Peterson, Trey Juhnke, and Corbin Simmons admitted to shooting the lion and transporting the carcass back to their vehicle. Simmons then falsely claimed to have harvested the animal north of the park boundary in Montana. 

Peterson, 20, was ordered on May 3 to pay approximately $1,700 in restitution and fees and must serve three years of unsupervised probation, during which time he is banned from hunting, fishing, or trapping worldwide. Juhnke, 20, and Simmons, 19, received similar sentences at hearings in April 2019. All three pleaded guilty to the charges at prior court hearings.

If you witness a crime, have information about suspicious activity or wildlife takings in Yellowstone, call the 24-hour Tip Line at 307-344-2132. Callers can remain anonymous.

Though seldom seen by the public, biologists estimate that 20 to 31 adult cougars reside year-round in the park's Northern Range (an average of 12 to 18 females and eight to 13 males). These estimates are based on field surveys and statistical analyses conducted from 2014-2017. Biologists found higher estimates in the later years of the study. The numbers do not include kitten and sub-adult cougars which accompany a portion of the adult females each year. Monitoring efforts since 2017 suggest a stable population consistent with these estimates for previous years.

“I would like to express a sincere thank you to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, law enforcement officers at Yellowstone National Park, the National Park Service Investigative Services Branch, and the US Attorney's Office — District of Wyoming for being involved in this case,” said Yellowstone National Park chief ranger Pete Webster. “Their thorough work spotlighted this egregious act and the consequences incurred for hunting illegally in Yellowstone National Park.”

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Killing the lion inside Yellowstone violated the Lacey Act, which says it is unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold in violation of U.S. or Indian law or in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken, possessed, or sold in violation of state or foreign law. 

Killing the lion also affected the state’s quota system by denying a legal hunter the opportunity to harvest a lion.

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