Bob Von Sternberg, Star Tribune
November 3, 2005
A trapper from Chisholm, Minn., has become ensnared in a court case
that could cost him $11,200 in fines and more than three years in jail.
Roderick R. (Rick) Kottom, 56, was arraigned last week on trapping
and natural resource violations in St. Louis County District Court.
According to officials of the Minnesota Department of Natural
Resources, Kottom was caught by a combination of old-fashioned North
Woods shoe leather and high-tech Internet sleuthing.
"This case was kind of like peeling an onion," said department
spokesman Rich Sprouse. "His name was not unknown to our enforcement
officer. And the Internet has opened all kinds of doors for this kind of
The department's conservation officers had been keeping track of
Kottom since 2002, even as a special agent for the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service had been setting up an Internet sting in late 2003.
The federal agent had answered an advertisement on the Web placed by
someone calling himself "Papa Fisher" who was offering to sell fisher
and pine marten pelts that had been trapped in Minnesota.
After conferring by e-mail and telephone, the agent bought six
fishers and two pine martens for $380 and reported that Kottom told him,
"I caught those marten."
Meanwhile state officers had been monitoring two trap sites in the
woods near Chisholm and found that neither had the identification
required by state law.
Using unspecified surveillance techniques, the officers watched a man
they identified as Kottom visit the traps and remove dead animals.
Last Dec. 14, they seized about 16 fisher pelts and 21 pine marten
pelts from Kottom's home. None was tagged or registered as required by
state law, and Kottom does not have a license to buy or sell furs in
Kottom, who has not yet entered a plea in the case, did not return
calls seeking comment.
He has been charged with a failure to check traps, a gross overlimit
of wild animals, possessing a marten in a closed season, unlawfully
buying or selling wild animals and failing to provide identification of
traps or snares.
"A lot of undercover work was done in this, and like a lot of these
cases, our best set of eyes are the other trappers out there," Sprouse
Bob von Sternberg • 612-673-7184
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