Miami County officer resigns amid probe

By Frank HincheyContributing Writer

Xenia, Ohio — A DNR Division of Wildlife law enforcement officer
assigned to Miami County resigned Oct. 25 amid a state and federal
criminal investigation of a baited mourning dove field.

Wildlife officer Jason M. Snyder had been on administrative
leave since Sept. 7, four days after the Division of Wildlife began
an internal investigation of the baiting alleged incident. Snyder
joined the DOW in 1995.

The DOW received a complaint on Aug. 31 about a potentially
baited dove hunting field in Miami County, said Todd Haines, the
Division of Wildlife’s district manager in southwest Ohio, which
includes Miami County.

On Sept. 3, federal officers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service observed six hunters in the baited field, Haines said.
Baiting migratory game birds either by placing bait or directing
the placement of bait is a violation of state and federal laws,
which can result in misdemeanor or felony charges.

According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 1998,
baiting is defined as “the direct or indirect placing, exposing,
depositing, distributing, or scattering of salt, grain, or other
feed that could serve as a lure or attraction for migratory game
birds to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to
take them.”

The Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act of 1998 changed the law to
eliminate the “strict liability” standard used to enforce federal
baiting regulations and replaced with a “know or should have known”
standard.

Taking migratory birds over baited fields is punishable by up to
six months in jail and up to a $15,000 fine. Knowingly baiting a
migratory bird field carries a penalty of up to a one year in jail
and up to a $100,000 fine upon conviction.

Examination of the evidence led investigators to determine that
Snyder was responsible for placing bait in a private landowner’s
field, according to a news release issued by the DOW on Oct.
29.

The internal investigation determined that Snyder allegedly
committed several acts of misconduct, including the misuse of a
state vehicle, falsification of official documents, dishonesty, and
violation of the officer code of conduct, according to Haines.

The alleged incident has been a low point during briefings of
the incident with other DOW officers, according to the division’s
law enforcement administrator, Jim Lehman.

“Heads are hanging low,” Lehman said Oct. 29. “You feel
betrayed.”

Lehman said that in his 26 years of service with the DOW, “I’ve
never heard of this happening.”

Lehman was named administrator of the law enforcement section
last year but had served in various other management capacities
with the division prior to the appointment.

Haines said he views the alleged incident as a drastic departure
from how DOW officers typically enforce wildlife regulations.

“Snyder’s actions are completely opposite of our mission,”
Haines said. “The Division of Wildlife has zero tolerance for this
type of activity, and that’s why he (Snyder) is gone.”

Haines said the DOW took the baiting incident very seriously and
quickly began an internal investigation after receiving
information.

“We acted immediately and expended considerable resources to
investigate,” he said. “We regret his serious error in judgment,
and we apologize to the sportsmen of Ohio.”

The State Highway Patrol has finished its investigation of the
incident and recently turned its report over to the Miami County
Prosecutor’s Office.

Miami County Prosecutor Gary Nasal said the report is under
review by his office and no decision has been made on whether to
file state charges or transfer the patrol’s findings to the federal
Fish and Wildlife Service.

Ohio Outdoor News was unable to find a telephone number to
contact Snyder for purposes of this story.

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