In 2017, California Fish and Wildlife game warden Dave Moskat was on his way to a poaching call in El Dorado County when he noticed something unusual. He saw a camouflaged feeder shooting out grain near Somerset, a tactic that’s used to attract animals and is also an illegal way to hunt.
So in the following hunting season, Moskat kept his eye on the property with surveillance cameras. When online records showed the property owner, 70-year-old William Valden, had declared he shot an animal a few days before the end of hunting season, Moskat did some digging.
It had turned out that Valden shot a trophy deer on his property outside of hunting season, lied about where he shot it and forged the signature of an official who previously signed off on his hunting tags. Now, he is paying dearly.
Valden pleaded no contest this week to misdemeanor charges for violating California Fish and Wildlife’s trophy animal rules, and was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine by the El Dorado County District Attorney. He will also be serving time through a work program, have to wear an ankle monitor and surrender his rifle and camera to authorities.
For Fish and Wildlife officials, it was a major win and a stark warning against poachers in California. Not only was the deer shot outside of hunting season, but the feeder also breaks the law allowing animals to “fair chase” while being hunted.