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Man to pay $74K for poaching trophy mule deer

SANTA FE – A North Dakota man has been ordered to pay $74,000 in restitution for poaching a trophy mule deer buck in northwestern New Mexico.

The state Department of Game and Fish reported Wednesday that Cody Davis also was ordered to make a $3,000 donation to the Operation Game Thief program.

Authorities say Davis killed a mule deer out of season and didn’t have a license.

The investigation started in 2015 with a tip. Conservation officers found a large headless buck near Lindrith and set up surveillance in the area after finding the severed head stashed nearby.

Authorities say Davis, who was originally from Lindrith, returned four months later to retrieve the head. Officers followed him for miles toward Bernalillo, where he is accused of dumping the trophy head off a bridge over the Rio Grande in an apparent attempt to avoid getting caught. It took nearly two weeks of searching the river before conservation officers and biologists found the head.

New Mexico authorities worked with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to serve a search warrant at Davis’ home. Authorities said Davis, who has a history of game law violations in New Mexico, admitted to killing the deer.

An attorney for Davis did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

New Mexico wildlife managers said that at the conclusion of the investigation, nearly 2,000 hours had been logged, more than 25,000 miles were driven and numerous search warrants were executed in the two states.

The case also was significant in terms of the amount of restitution that was ordered. For all of 2019, the agency said it collected just over $90,000 in restitution for violations.