Shady Cove man pleads guilty in poaching case

A Shady Cove man faces up to 31/2; years in federal prison for helping poachers in Colorado and Utah illegally kill bobcats and cougars, some of which were caged, ensnared and even maimed to make it easier for his clients to kill them.

Nicholaus Rodgers, 31, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver to a single violation of the federal Lacey Act, which regulates illegal interstate hunting and trafficking of illegally obtained wildlife parts.

In exchange, six other felony wildlife charges were dropped.

U.S. District Court Judge Christine Arguello ordered Rodgers, who was out on bond and present in court Tuesday, back for sentencing Nov. 7.

Federal prosecutors in court papers estimated Rodgers' likely sentence would be anywhere from a year to 41 months in federal prison, plus fines and restitution for the cougars and bobcats he helped poach.

Rodgers' 31-page plea agreement includes a list of admissions to taking part in illegal hunting expeditions for mostly out-of-state clients — and one undercover federal agent — from 2007 to 2009 for Rodgers' outfitter boss, Christopher Loncarich of Colorado.

Loncarich faces trial on similar charges and has a hearing scheduled to change his not guilty plea today.

Rodgers used collapsible traps or snares to capture cougars in the field, then released them to be found and shot by Loncarich's unwitting — but usually unlicensed or without proper tags — clients, the agreement states.

Some of the cougars were shot in a leg before they were released from cages so they would not wander away from the clients in the area, according to court documents. Other animals were held in place by snares that were undetected by the poaching clients who shot them from a distance, the agreement states.

On Feb. 6, 2009, in Utah, Loncarich allegedly shot and wounded a caged bobcat, which Rodgers then released so it could be shot and killed by a client, who happened to be an undercover U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent, according to both men's indictment. That bobcat was then taken illegally to Colorado and falsely reported as having been shot there, the indictment states.

Rodgers and Loncarich were indicted in January.

The indictment makes reference to four unindicted and unnamed co-conspirators, although two were identified in court papers as Loncarich's daughters and one as a son-in-law, all of whom worked for Loncarich. The fourth co-conspirator was identified only as a former guide.

Lacey Act violations can result in five years in prison and fines of up to $250,000 each.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has no records of Rodgers buying a hunting license in the state, and records show he has no criminal history in Southern Oregon.

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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