Yellowstone Poacher Loses Hunting Privileges for Life

Yellowstone elk like this big bull are less likely to be shot now. Photo by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos via Flickr.

Considering the sentence that a Gallatin County, Montana, court recently levied on Montana resident Stephen Slavinsky, it’s going to be harder to argue that the state courts are too lenient with poachers. We can’t know exactly what Slavinsky felt after the sentence was handed down on May 19th, but I’ll warrant that it was the psychological equivalent of being flattened by an 18-wheeler.

The 44-year old Slavinsky pleaded guilty to four state felony poaching charges arising from an investigation conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in cooperation with the National Park Service. Slavinsky had been conducting illegal guiding, hunting, and trapping operations, including repeated forays into Yellowstone National Park for taking or attempting to take elk and river otters.

This was not Slavinsky’s first conviction for poaching wildlife in a national park. Poaching an elk in the same area of Yellowstone had earned him a misdemeanor federal conviction back in 1987.

In addition to receiving a 20-year prison sentence (15 years suspended), Slavinsky was prohibited from ever again having firearms or any other kind of weapon in his possession, banned from hunting anywhere in the world for the rest of his life, ordered to pay court costs, and directed to forfeit all mounts, antlers, horns, and pelts seized during the criminal investigation.

Slavinsky has not been banned from the national parks for life, but he does have to wait 20 years before again setting foot in any national park.

According to NPS Special Agent David Barland-Liles, the stiff sentence Slavinsky received in the state court has prompted the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the National Park Service to drop plans to file additional federal misdemeanor charges.


There is justice in this world! My hat goes off to the Gallitin County, Montana court that leveled this poacher and the officers who investigated the crime.
Personally do not understand any person entering national park land with intent to kill elk or river otter. In my eyes he is a criminal.

I spent a week this winter photographing in Yellowstone - one of my hopes was finding river otters playing on the snow banks in the Lamar Valley (to no avail). Perhaps, next time, I will find them.

I'm all about throwing the book (preferably a large, heavy book) at poachers, but I'm curious about one thing: who enforces a ban on "hunting anywhere in the world"?

Great news, and an excellent precedent! Thanks to Gallatin County for sending a strong signal to those who might have considered the new gun laws an invitation to hunt in our national parks.

I was wondering how long it would take for somebody to raise that question!

Regarding the worldwide hunting ban. I suspect his parole officer will be the overseer at first. Once he is off of parole, it will be up to the public to report him. He may well get away with it, but he would risk the 15 years of suspended sentence coming crashing down on top of him if he were caught.

Montana is not the only state where poaching laws are well enforced. In my experience, Michigan and Oregon levy pretty severe fines. I don't know how many do-overs you get before you go to prison. The lax enforcement I observed in both Michigan and Oregon were with the tribal courts, which were notorious for letting their own tribal members off with a slap on the wrist while hammering any non-Native American that dared poach their lands.

This is what I call pure slob hunting without conscience. I don't want this clown visiting California either. We have enough illegal poaching going problems on in California. The poor game wardens are so understaffed and so paper thin in covering the vast California wilderness areas that it's easy pickens for professional poachers. Thanks to California's budget crises. Finally, a crime that fits the punishment for Mr. Slavinsky.

i lived in montana and hunted there. poaching is fairly common from my experience. there are alot of people there that think it is their right to kill whatever they want when they want. not all but some.i have seen deer shot and left and nothing taken,in deer season! the fish and parks does their best, but there is alot of country to cover. what a fool hunting in can hunt just outside the park and there is no reason to go there for that.montana has many issues about hunting and access to public land looming soon. i don't know how many people know but there are indian tribes that have the right by treaty to hunt year round in montana on public land. they can shoot all the deer they want and each member can shoot a moose per year,a policy that is not working well now. i personaly know a tribal member that let a non member poach a moose on his tag and i hear its common. they did not get caught and bragged far and wide about it. i'm glad at least one guy got caught and he deserved more than he got. hopefully these things will be fixed at some point.

Big deal - a poacher by definition does not need "hunting privileges"

Yellowstone of all places, with the amount of visitors he is just lucky he never shot a tourist. I personally belief we all have the right to bare arms, and purchaces hunting license. Poaching is such a crappy crime, the ____ is lucky, he lives in todays world. He only lost his right to bare arms, he could have been taken out and linched a hundred years ago. Montana has had enough illegal poaching going on for years, codos to Gallitin County, Montana for adding some justice in this world!

Ya'll would be surprised to hear that he didn't actually serve 5 years. That is what he was sentenced, but not what he ultimately served. So, all the kudos to the law enforcement is unwarranted. Saying that he deserved more than he got is more true that what you think.