In what Utah's top wildlife officer calls the worst case of poaching he has ever seen, five West Valley City family members have been charged with allegedly poaching more than 90 animals.
Four men and a woman are accused by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources investigators of illegal wildlife kills going back to 1998. Mike Fowlks, chief of law enforcement for DWR, said Thursday that the family may be linked to the poaching of 90 deer, four antelope and one elk.
"In my 18 years of wildlife law enforcement, this is the largest deer poaching case I have ever been associated with," Fowlks said Thursday.
Gerald D. Jensen Sr., 47; Angella D. Jensen, 43; Robert L. Jensen, 45; Gerald D. Jensen Jr., 22; and 20-year-old Robert Tyler Jensen are charged in 3rd District Court with 19 felonies and one misdemeanor in the case so far, Fowlks said.
All of the defendants except Angella Jensen were in custody; she has been in contact with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office and is expected to turn herself in soon, Fowlks said.
DWR officers served search warrants on three Jensen family residents in January and allegedly found numerous mounted trophy buck mule deer and antlers.
"These animals were killed out of season or without the proper permits," Fowlks said. "As near as we can tell, this [poaching] has been going on for 10-12 years."
Third District Court records show the charges against the Jensens include multiple second- and third-degree felony counts of wanton destruction of protected wildlife and third-degree felony counts of use of firearms by restricted persons, as well as one third-degree felony count of retaliation against a witness, victim or informant.
The latter charge reportedly stems from alleged calls made to a woman the defendants mistakenly thought may have tipped off authorities.
Prosecutors also claim the Jensens participated in a first-degree felony pattern of unlawful activity, and filed one second-degree felony count of knowingly producing/dispensing/manufacturing a controlled substance, relating to the alleged discovery of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in a gun safe, court records show.