Conservation Wildlife Management

After 23 Years of Complaints from Hunters, Idaho Poacher Gets Jail Time, 10-Year Hunting Ban

The conviction and sentencing followed a three-year investigation into the poacher’s illegal hunting activities
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Idaho poacher caught with mountain goat
During their investigation, wildlife agents with IDFG discovered a mountain goat that Coward killed unlawfully in Washington and had hidden in his North Idaho home. Fisherga / Flickr

A known poacher and repeat offender from North Idaho was convicted of a string of wildlife-related crimes last month. After a years-long investigation by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, Paul D. Coward of St. Maries was tried in a Shoshone County courtroom on Dec. 14, where he pled guilty to multiple poaching charges. Coward has been sentenced to 90 days in jail and faces $16,000 in fines, plus a 10-year revocation of his hunting privileges, according to a press release from IDFG.

Coward, 55, was charged with numerous misdemeanor and felony violations at the beginning of 2021. Those violations included possession of drugs and paraphernalia, outfitting/guiding without a license, unlawful possession of firearms, hunting big game over unlawful bait, and possession of unlawfully taken wildlife. The last charge was a felony count related to a mountain goat that he killed in Washington and had been hiding in his home.

These charges followed a litany of complaints about Coward’s illegal hunting practices that IDFG received over a roughly 23-year period, which sparked a three-year investigation by the state agency. “Often the most serious and intentional poaching cases are the hardest to crack,” according to the release, because they’re time consuming and require building enough evidence for a valid case against offenders. IDFG investigators eventually gathered enough physical evidence to prove that Coward was illegally using bait to attract big game, and was providing outfitting and guiding services without a license. In addition to these wildlife crimes, investigators determined that Coward, a convicted felon, was in unlawful possession of several firearms.

“Investigators said that Coward admitted he knew what he was doing was illegal, but chose to continue to bait, hunt unlawfully, and disregard the licensing requirements for outfitting and guiding,” according to IDFG.

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Coward’s case was brought before First District Judge Scott Wayman in Shoshone County on Dec. 14. After Coward pleaded guilty to the charges, local prosecutor Benjamin Allen presented evidence and testimony, and the judge ultimately ordered that Coward’s hunting privileges be revoked for 10 years. This hunting ban extends to Idaho as well as the other 48 member states of the Wildlife Violator Compact.

As part of his sentencing, Coward was ordered to pay a total of $16,000 in fines, a total that includes a $10,000 civil penalty for unlawfully possessing a mountain goat. The judge also handed down a five-year prison sentence that requires Coward to serve 90 days in the county jail. This jail time will be served in 30-day increments in September 2022, 2023, and 2024—a timeframe that, according to the IDFG, is meant to prohibit him from being in the field during the archery elk season when many of his violations took place.