Joint border investigation nets illegal moose hunters

LANCASTER, N.H. — A cooperative effort along the border separating Pittsburg, New Hampshire, and Quebec, Canada, led to the arrest of two Canadian citizens during a surveillance detail in late October.

Conservation Officers from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department successfully teamed up with US Border Patrol Agents and Quebec Provincial Wardens in a concerted effort to address the illegal entry of Canadian hunters into the United States for the purpose of poaching moose.

The maintained border between Pittsburg and Canada is a trimmed corridor resembling a power line right-of-way, locally known as the "slash." Pittsburg shares approximately 56 miles of soft border with Canada, along which are hundreds of Canadian hunting shacks and blinds. Some of the shacks are rudimentary, and others resemble elevated camps, fully equipped with propane heaters, cook stoves and sleeping bunks.

Thanks in part to a federal Homeland Security grant titled "Operation Stonegarden," teams of officers conducted surveillance of several hunting shacks, as well as foot patrols on the border in the upper reaches of Hall Stream. Vehicle access is limited in this area, and officers had a 1-1.5 mile hike to reach their intended positions, where some spent a chilly night in sleeping bags in 17-degree temperatures.

Their efforts began to pay off during the early morning hours of October 13, after officers heard several gunshots in close proximity to their location.

A team of foot patrol officers also received information from hunters along the slash that some Canadians had shot a moose on the New Hampshire side of the border. A short time later, the team of officers made contact with a hunter in the suspect elevated blind.

The man denied seeing any moose, but New Hampshire Conservation Officer Mark Hensel and his certified police K-9, Sig, quickly located a human scent track that originated from the base of the blind and led into the United States. The track led Sig and Hensel approximately 100 yards down a trimmed shooting lane into New Hampshire, where they located a freshly killed young moose next to a salt block.

Being a "scent discriminate" tracking dog, Sig continued following the human track scent, leading them to a second freshly killed adult bull moose approximately 60 yards away from the first.

During the initial stages of investigation, the suspected poachers returned to the scene on an All-Terrain Vehicle, with the intent of extracting the moose back to Canada. Quebec Provincial Wardens assisted at the scene and served as interpreters during the interviews of the French-speaking hunters.

Subsequently charged were Sylvain Perron, age 42, of Cookshire, PQ, Canada and a juvenile male subject.

The suspects returned to Colebrook District Court on November 1, where they pled no contest to the charges. Fines and restitution totaled $3,240; their Canadian moose tags were forfeited for the season; and Perron received a two-year loss of hunting privilege in New Hampshire.

The moose meat was cut and wrapped by a local butcher, and it will be distributed to deserving families throughout Coos County.

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