The owners of Louisiana Bowfishing Inc., along with a guide who works for the charter service, were arrested this week in connection with alleged illegal alligator kills as part of their operation, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reported today.
Louisiana Bowfishing Inc. owners Blake A. Mitchell, 29, and 32-year-old Neil Mitchell (both of Gretna), and 19-year-old guide Stephen Black of Slidell were arrested in connection with a number of alligator-hunting offenses in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes, according to an LDWF news release.
All three men were booked for failing to tag alligators, taking alligators from an unapproved area, taking alligators without a license, taking or possessing alligators during a closed season and hunting or taking alligators at night.
The Mitchells also were booked with failure to comply with deer-tagging requirements, the LDWF said.
The arrests came after an LDWF investigation into alleged "illegal commercial taking and pursuing alligators for profit on guided bowfishing trips with Louisiana Bowfishing Inc." during 2013 and 2014, the agency said.
LDWF enforcement agents obtained a search warrant for Blake Mitchell's cell phone in May after receiving reports from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about possible illegal activity, and the phone allegedly contained photographs of Black taken by Mitchell showing numerous alligators in Jefferson Parish, according to the news release.
The cell-phone photos allegedly included date stamps indicating they were taken outside of the alligator season, the LDWF said. The photos also included GPS data showing locations in unapproved alligator hunting areas, the agency reported.
The investigation also resulted in information indicating Neil Mitchell was involved in the illegal taking of alligators in Jefferson Parish, and that brother Blake Mitchell was allegedly conducting similar illegal alligator hunts in Plaquemines Parish, the LDWF said.
Agents interviewed customers who reportedly indicated the Louisiana Bowfishing guides commonly took alligators illegally "to generate more money," according to the news release.
Blake Mitchell's cell phone also allegedly included photographs of deer killed in Plaquemines and Jefferson parishes that were not reported through the LDWF Deer Tagging Program as required by law, the LDWF said.
The agency said each count of failing to tag alligator, taking alligators from an unapproved area, taking or possessing alligators during a closed season, hunting/taking alligators at night brings up to a $950 fine and 90 days in jail. Hunting alligators without a license carries up to a $500 fine and 90 days in jail. Not abiding with deer tagging requirements brings up to a $350 fine and 60 days in jail, the LDWF reported.