Robert Earl Patton Pleads Guilty in U.S. Federal Cour
The United States Attorney's Office announced that during a federal court session in Missoula on March 2, 2010, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeremiah C. Lynch, ROBERT EARL PATTON, a 49-year-old resident of Kalispell, pled guilty to a violation of the Endangered Species Act. A sentencing date will be set at a later time. He is currently released on special conditions.
In an Offer of Proof filed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot, the government stated it would have proved at trial the following:
On November 1, 2008, PATTON left a voice mail message for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent concerning a wolf that PATTON had encountered and killed the previous day, October 31, 2008. PATTON also reported the incident to Tip-Mont.
On November 4, 2008, agents met PATTON near the McGinnis Meadow/Fisher River area between Kalispell and Libby. PATTON and the agents located the wolf, which PATTON had dragged under a fir tree after shooting and killing the animal.
When interviewed, PATTON told the agent that he was hunting deer and elk on October 31, 2008, heard choppy barking as he was headed back to his camp at approximately 5:30 p.m., and saw a black dog-like figure moving toward him. When the wolf was approximately 20 yards in front of him, PATTON raised his rifle, aimed at the animal's chest, and fired a shot. He heard the bullet hit the wolf and then heard silence. He found the wolf, moved it under the fir tree where the agents found it on November 4, 2008, and returned to his hunting camp. The following evening, once he had cellular phone service, he called Tip-Mont and the agent and reported the incident.
The wolf was sent to the National Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Oregon, for further analysis. A veterinary medical examiner analyzed the wolf and concluded that the wolf was shot on its back left side and the exit wound was on the front right side.
PATTON faces possible penalties of 1 year in prison, a $100,000 fine and 1 year supervised release.
The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A copy of the Offer of Proof can be obtained by contacting Sally Frank at (406) 247-4638.