U.P. man charged with harvesting 18 wolves, killing bald eagles

The Detroit News

A Chippewa County man has been charged with 125 wildlife crimes after state investigators found he harvested or slayed endangered and protected species, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday.

The charges against Kurt Johnston Duncan followed a lengthy probe by the department's Law Enforcement Division, officials said in a statement.

The Pickford man is accused of illegally harvesting 18 wolves in the last 18 months as well as killing and disposing of three bald eagles, according to the release.

Wolves are protected in Michigan and are on the federal endangered species list. Bald eagles are protected under state law, as well as the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. 

"Other species involved in the charges include deer, turkey, bear and bobcat," state officials said. "DNR law enforcement detectives said that Duncan was using the animals for a variety of reasons, including crafts, selling or disposing of them, and stated that he was catching the animals because he could and 'likes to do it.' ”

A Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer checks snares investigators say Duncan used to illegally capture animals.

Duncan was served with four search warrants in March.

The 56-year-old was arraigned Wednesday in Chippewa County’s 91st District Court. He faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for each wolf and eagle; $1,500 in restitution per eagle and $500 per wolf; and up to 90 days in jail and a $500 fine each for the other wildlife crimes.

The Chippewa County Prosecutor's Office is seeking $30,000 in restitution to the state for animals. 

Conservation officers have also identified other suspects who are expected to be charged, the DNR said.

“We are happy with the outcome and hope this case sets an example to prevent future natural resource crimes,” said Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division chief.

Duncan pleaded not guilty to all charges. Bond was set at $500 and he was ordered to have no contact with any co-defendants, have a firearm or dangerous weapon or hunt and fish.