January 24, 2006
A Minnesota poacher faces eight years in jail and $20,000 in fines for a variety
of natural resources and other serious violations. James Andrew Brattrud, 30, of
Buyck, made his initial court appearance Friday, Jan.13, in St. Louis County
District Court in Hibbing.
Brattrud has been charged with possession of a short barreled shotgun, maximum
sentence of five years in jail and/or $10,000; possession of a pistol without a
permit, maximum sentence of one year and/or $3,000; possession of prohibited
wild animal (eight fisher/pine marten), maximum sentence one year and/or $3,000;
wanton waste of a protected wild animal, 90 days and/or $1,000 fine; taking
small game without a license, 90 days and/or $1,000; over-limit of bass and
northern pike, 90 days and/or $1,000; and failure to have a license, as required
by the game and fish laws, to mount specimens of wild animals, 90 days and/or
No trial date has been set.
In January 2003, Minnesota Conservation Officer Troy Fondie of Orr received a
complaint of a dog caught in a snare in the Crane Lake area. Fondie located
snare sites of Brattrud, who denied catching the dog.
Fondie documented violations committed by Brattrud, including failure to tend
snares daily and no identification affixed to snares.
Follow-up investigation in February at Brattrud's taxidermy shop found multiple
records- keeping violations, including black bear hides in his possession
without hunter identification and license number recorded.
A large number of furbearing animals were stacked on top of the freezer in the
porch. There were also furbearing animals inside the kitchen area, including
muskrat, pine marten, red fox, weasel and red squirrel in different stages of
Fondie also noted several snares that had what appeared to be fisher hair on the
cables. Fisher season had closed in December. Brattrud said the fisher were
accidentally killed while attempting to release them. The following day Brattrud
turned over four illegal fisher to the officer.
Minnesota law says a person may not possess or transport a fisher, otter, pine
marten, fox, bobcat, lynx or gray wolf that was accidentally killed until the
person notifies the local conservation officer, other authorized DNR employee,
or the regional enforcement office of the killing and receives authorization to
possess, transport or skin the animal.
In February 2003, Fondie received information from the St. Louis County
Sheriff's Department regarding a complaint from someone who had failed to
receive a fisher they had bought from Brattrud.
Brattrud's small game privileges were revoked in March 2003 after being
convicted of having no identification on snares and failure to tend snares
Fondie requested the DNR's Special Investigations Unit assist in the
investigation of Brattrud's trapping activities.
During the early phase of the investigation conducted on Sept. 19, 2003,
Brattrud guided two conservation officer investigators on a black bear hunt in
the Buyck area. At that time, Brattrud was a licensed DNR bear hunter's guide.
On the second day of the guided hunt, the officers were shown where the bear
baits were stored. They also observed a broken freezer in the building that
reeked of decaying bear hides and other decomposed wild animals that were
unidentifiable. Officers also noticed several decomposing beaver and raccoon
carcasses on the floor of a nearby fur shed. Violations were documented and,
based upon additional information received that indicated Brattrud was violating
terms of his small game license revocation, the investigation was extended into
the trapping season.
During the open trapping season in December 2003 and December 2004, the officers
documented Brattrud trapping in violation of his revocation status, which
included the taking of eight fisher/pine marten over the limit. The current
harvest limit for fisher/marten is five animals combined. The decomposed remains
of a red fox were also found in one of the many traps Brattrud had set in the
On Dec. 11, 2004, Fondie contacted Brattrud in the woods south of Crane Lake
again setting snares without the required identification on them. Brattrud was
cited for the offense and convicted on Jan. 5, 2005. This violation, along with
violations in 2003, again resulted in his small game privileges being revoked.
Based upon the evidence collected and personal observations by conservation
officers, a search warrant was served on Brattrud's residence on Jan. 26, 2005.
Conservation officers subsequently seized two whole and spoiled white-tailed
deer taken during the 2003 Minnesota firearm deer season; nine whole bass, which
exceeded the state limit of six; one whole northern pike and northern pike
fillets totaling one fish over the limit; and one illegal short-barreled
On April 4, 2005, conservation officers returned to the Buyck area where they
believed traps and snares set by Brattrud still remained active during closed
season. The officers were able to locate the decomposed remains of several pine
marten, otter and muskrat still in the traps and snares.