A Nevada poaching ring put itself in the crosshairs of game officials when one member posted a photo on Facebook of a mule deer killed out of season.
It was a tip in June, 2013, that alerted authorities to the photo of a man posing with the animal slung over his shoulder near Hiko, Nev., and it launched a 16-month state and federal probe that ended in the arrests of four men on a raft of charges, including poaching, weapons and illegal immigration offenses. Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Edwin Lyngar said it only happened because officials could tell by the background that the mule deer carried by a man they identified as Jose Manuel Ortega-Torres was not taken during the fall hunting season.
“Things didn’t look right,” Lyngar said. “We got a search warrant [for Ortega-Torres' home], and from there, it was a long and complicated investigation.”
The search of Ortega-Torres’ home led to evidence of illegally killed deer and migratory birds as well as butchering tools and weapons, authorities said. It also turned up evidence that led them to Las Vegas, where they identified Adrian Acevedo-Hernandez, 36, Jose Luis Montufar-Canales, 31, and J. Nemias Reyes Marin, 31, as part of an alleged ring involved in a wide range of wildlife crimes.
In addition to the illegally killed deer in Hiko, authorities found evidence of illegal deer killing in Elko County, Nev., and fraudulently obtained hunting licenses and tags. Perhaps most disturbing, Lyngar said, is that it is not possible to know how long the ring operated or how many animals it killed.