A man from Powell, Wyoming has been accused of several wildlife violations involving grizzly bears, bald and golden eagles, and bighorn sheep.
An affidavit obtained by the Powell Tribune alleges that Grant L. Cadawaller shot and killed four grizzlies and illegally collected 12 bighorn sheep skulls, as well feathers and talons from federally-protected bald and golden eagles.
Cadwallader plead not guilty to all 18 misdemeanor charges in Park County Circuit Court on Thursday, October 19.
According to local reports, agents with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) began investigating Cadwallader after his ex-wife reported the alleged violations as part of a custody dispute.
The agents raided his home in December 2019 and found eagle feathers and talons in a jar.
The search also turned up more than 20 bighorn sheep heads and horns, along with multiple grizzly bear claws attached to “an ornate necklace”, the affidavit states.
Two Separate Grizzly Bear Incidents
Court documents claim that Cadwallader and a fellow shed hunter shot at and killed a grizzly bear that charged them in thick timber in a remote section of Wyoming’s North Fork draining sometime between 2017 and 2022—and then failed to report the incident to the proper authorities. Other charges stem from an incident in the same general area, during which Cadwallader allegedly shot and killed a different charging grizzly and then went on to shoot its two 30-pound cubs. That incident occurred between 2002 and 2004, according to the affidavit.
The affidavit was written by WGFD game warden Travis Crane. Both Crane and a federal wildlife agent interviewed Cadwallader in 2021 after the 2019 search of his home. In the affidavit, Crane wrote that Cadwallader said he didn’t report the alleged grizzly bear killings because “he was scared of being prosecuted and going to jail.” While grizzlies are protected under federal law in the Lower 48, they can be legally killed in cases involving legitimate self defense.
“Immediately after the sow disappeared, the cubs stood up and looked at Cadwallader, who immediately shot and killed each one of them without even thinking about it,” Crane wrote, describing Cadwallader’s account of the incident. “It was at this time that Cadwallader looked closer at the cubs, realizing they were each about 30 pounds in size. Cadwallader felt horrible about shooting them and at what he had just done.”
After firing three shots at the sow with a sidearm, the affidavit says, Cadwallader found the grizzly dead in a ravine and removed five of its claws. In his 2021 interview with Crane, he estimated that the incident involving the sow and cubs took place up to 19 years ago.
Illegal Collection of Feathers, Talons, and Skulls
Twelve of the 18 charges against Cadwallader relate to 12 bighorn sheep skulls that agents seized at his residence in 2019. Prosecutors say he collected those skulls in California and Washington while doing wildlife capture work for a private company, and that he brought the skulls back to Wyoming without obtaining and the proper interstate game tags.
The investigation also turned up a photo of the Cadwallader and a companion posing with a dead golden eagle. The companion reportedly told authorities that the eagle had been hit by a car along a highway in Utah. The affidavit doesn’t say whether the talons and feathers seized in 2019 belonged to the dead eagle in the photo, the Powell Tribune reports.
According to Wyoming-based Cowboy State Daily, Cadwallader’s grizzly bear-related charges come with maximum penalties of up to one year in prison and possible fines and restitution totaling $35,000. If convicted, he could also lose hunting privileges in Wyoming and other states for up to six years. His next trail is set for March 7, 2024 in Park County Circuit Court.
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This article by Travis Hall was first published by Field and Stream on 20 October 2023. Lead Image: Grizzly bears are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act in the Lower 48.