A Northern California man has pleaded guilty to illegally poaching 60 bobcats and gray foxes for their pelts, snaring them in traps he set over 900 square miles in two counties, officials said.
Tracy Lee Shultz of Courtland, south of Sacramento, was fined $5,000 and ordered to forfeit the pelts worth nearly $15,000, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced Thursday.
He was also banned from fishing, hunting and trapping or going with others on related trips for a year.
"The illegal commercialization of wildlife is second only to the illegal trade in drugs and guns for worldwide revenue," Warden Nick Buckler said in a statement. "There will always be people willing to break laws and exploit wildlife to make money.”
Authorities said Shultz unlawfully trapped bobcats and foxes in remote areas of Lassen and Modoc counties before the season opened on Nov. 24.
He reportedly tagged about 50 live traps, but wasn't able remove the animals or check them daily, which is required by Fish and Wildlife.
"This extensive trapping area made it impossible for Shultz to check each trap daily, and allowed him to trap more area, spend less gas and cheat other trappers who followed the law," Fish and Wildlife officials said in a statement.
Trapping bobcats for commercial purposes is legal in California, but it must occur during the 70-day open season.
Buckler, a Fish and Wildlife warden for Lassen County, received a tip about Shultz's traps, so he spent days and nights living in the sage to document his activity.
After three months of observation, teams seized evidence, including Shultz's trailer, an all-terrain vehicle, a trapping journal, about 50 large commercial traps and other equipment, authorities said in a statement
The furs were eventually sold to a licensed dealer for nearly $15,000.
A Lassen County judge ordered the money be paid to the Lassen County Fish and Game Commission to support lawful hunting and fishing activities.