Nampa man gets lifetime hunting ban for poaching bighorn sheep

A bighorn sheep munches on a blade of grass in Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont.
A bighorn sheep munches on a blade of grass in Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Mont. For The Washington Post

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game earlier this month imposed a lifetime hunting ban, jail time and monetary penalties for a Nampa man after he was found guilty of poaching a bighorn ram last November, according to an IDFG press release.

Paul Cortez, 53, of Nampa, was cited by IDFG conservation officer Brian Perkes on Nov. 6, 2015, after Perkes and a group of other officers spoke to Cortez at his hunting camp in Hunt Unit 19, according to the release. Officials said Cortez’s arms and hands were bloody when officers approached him via jet boat, and he admitted to shooting the ram from his camp and stashing the animal’s carcass among some rocks. Bighorn sheep season had closed in the Main Salmon River area on Oct. 13, and lawful hunting of the animals is highly regulated due to their low numbers in Idaho.

Cortez was cited for “unlawfully killing a trophy big game animal, possession of an illegally taken bighorn sheep, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia,” according to the release. He took a plea agreement which allowed him to plead guilty to one felony count of unlawfully killing a trophy big game animal, accept 15 days in jail and drop the remaining charges.

Judge Gregory FitzMaurice called Cortez’s sentencing “fairly lenient” and doubled Cortez’s jail time to 30 days. In addition, Cortez was given a $10,000 civil penalty, four years of probation and fines totaling $753. He called the incident “a huge mistake in my judgment” and asked FitzMaurice to reconsider the lifetime hunting ban, IDFG said.

“The [illegal] killing of animals, especially rare animals, has serious consequences in this state,” said FitzMaurice, who chose to implement the lifetime ban.