Seven men and one woman have been charged with at least 223 poaching-related violations in a massive case that involved 27 whitetail bucks that were killed illegally. The investigation spans three West Virginia counties and part of Maryland, according to a press release issued via email by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources law enforcement section.
The charges were filed against eight West Virginia residents last week in an investigation that began in September 2021. Two of those suspects include former Mineral County deputy sheriffs Tyler Biggs and Dalton Dolly, who were placed on administrative leave and have since resigned amid the investigation. A third man, Christopher Biggs, the EMS chief of Allegany County Department of Emergency Services in Maryland and Tyler Biggs’ father, have been suspended. He is the only suspect facing felony charges, reports the Cumberland Times-News.
Misdemeanor charges filed against the other seven suspects include the following offenses: 25 counts of spotlighting, 32 counts of illegal wildlife possession, 26 counts of conspiracy, five counts of failure to register deer, 22 counts of hunting in a closed season, 24 counts of hunting from a vehicle, 17 counts of a loaded firearm in a vehicle, one count of an uncased firearm in a vehicle, 10 counts of exceeding the yearly deer limit, 20 counts of nighttime hunting, and one count receiving or transferring stolen property. The DNR also says trespassing was included in the list of filed charges.
The West Virginia Natural Resources Police received an anonymous tip on Nov. 5 that one of the suspects, Colton Broadwater of Keyser, had killed a big buck using a spotlight, reports CTN. A subsequent review of Facebook turned up a photo of Broadwater with a deer he claimed to have killed in Maryland. Maryland wildlife officials found a discrepancy with that checked-in deer.
NRP executed a search warrant on Broadwater’s home Dec. 19, in which several illegal deer were recovered. Officials also seized several cell phones from the suspects, which contained videos of spotlighting and illegal kills, photos, instant messages, Facebook messages, and location details of illegal activity.
In West Virginia, poachers face “replacement” fees that correspond to the size of the deer they kill: The bigger the buck, the bigger the fine. The trophy replacement fee for bucks with an inside spread of 14 to 16 inches is $2,500. Spreads from 16 to 18 inches are valued at $5,000; 18 to 20 inches are $7,500, and a spread of 20 inches or greater carries a fine of $10,000. Of the 27 bucks that have so far been identified in the investigation, according to the DNR, 12 have an inside spread of at least 14 inches.
The other suspects who have been charged include Gregory Broadwater, Ivy Rodeheaver, Robert Horner Sr., and Robert “Beau” Horner Jr., all of Mineral County, West Virginia. The investigation is currently ongoing, says the DNR, and other charges may be pending as the investigation progresses.
Editor’s note: Ivy Rodeheaver’s name has been spelled several ways in the DNR press release and other media accounts detailing this case. This is the most accurate spelling we’ve been able to confirm.