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UTAHN BAGS PRISON TERM FOR ELK POACHING, BRIBERY

A Salt Lake man who poached a trophy elk in Yellowstone National Park and was turned in by a taxidermist was sentenced to prison recently for bribing a witness not to testify against him.

Chad S. Beus, 24, pleaded guilty last November to two counts of misdemeanor poaching and felony witness tampering.U.S. District Judge Alan B. Johnson ordered Beus to spend four months in prison and pay $30,000 in fines.

Beus killed an often-photographed seven-by-eight-point elk in Yellowstone in the fall of 1993. He cut off the animal's antlers and took the rack to a Utah taxidermist to have it mounted.

But the taxidermist recognized the poached animal from a photograph in Bugle, the magazine of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and alerted authorities. DNA tests proved the antlers had come from the popular park elk.

Poaching in a national park carries only a misdemeanor charge if it is not done for commercial purposes.

"We'll take what we can get," said Yellowstone Park Chief Ranger Dan Sholly. "It really is unfortunate that the outrageous act of killing this animal was not responsible for most of his sentence."

The judge said that while poaching the elk was egregious, he was most disturbed by Beus' trying to hinder a federal investigation into the crime, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Pico.

Court documents say Beus paid Shane D. Chavers $5,000 not to tell federal investigators that he saw Beus shoot the animal.

Chavers cooperated with the investigation and the $5,000 was seized and will count toward $10,000 in restitution Beus must pay a federal fund that finances anti-poaching efforts in Yellowstone, Pico said. Beus paid the remaining $5,000.

In addition, Johnson ordered Beus to pay $20,000 in fines directly to the government.

Following the prison sentence, Beus must spend four months in house arrest and then three years on probation. He cannot hold a hunting license during that time. Since he has been convicted of a felony, Beus also cannot own or carry any firearms.

After Beus completes his probation, he would only be allowed to hunt with a bow, Johnson noted.