State wildlife board pick once pleaded guilty to a hunting charge. But he swears he didn’t bait deer
Robert Durand wants the public to know: They weren’t his apples.
Named last month to the board that sets the state’s hunting regulations, Durand once ran afoul of the rules in neighboring Vermont, where he pleaded guilty in 2013 to a misdemeanor hunting charge.
Durand, a former secretary of environmental affairs under Paul Cellucci, paid about $480 in fines and fees, and was docked points on his hunting license after admitting he did not properly mark a tree stand near his property in Lamoille County.
But it’s press coverage of the original count he faced — allegedly baiting deer using apples, considered a serious “big game” charge — that he’s sought to set straight.
Durand said he disclosed his record to Governor Charlie Baker’s administration before Baker tapped him for the Fisheries and Wildlife Board. And, before the late May announcement, he reached out to the Globe reporter who wrote the original 2013 story to see whether the Globe could run an update.
“I let the story go for all these years,” Durand said recently.
Here’s the backdrop: Vermont Fish & Wildlife wardens had spent days in October 2012 monitoring a tree stand where a hunter had been baiting deer with apples and corn, according to court documents. The practice was outlawed in Vermont years earlier to address Chronic Wasting Disease, a highly contagious illness spread among deer through, among other things, saliva.
Eventually, Jason Batchelder — now Vermont’s chief game warden — and another official found a hunter, bow in hand and an arrow nocked, waiting in the stand with several apples below.
It was Durand.
“I assume [you’re here] because of the apples,” Durand said, according to a state report. “Officer, I assure you this is not my stand.”
Durand told the wardens he had found the stand days earlier, and acknowledged he shouldn’t have been in it, given the apples. He was issued a citation for baiting, which, like many hunting violations in Vermont, is handled in criminal court. Wardens also checked two stands Durand said he owned — one of which wasn’t labeled — but found no apples or other bait there.
Months later, his charges were amended to the stand violation, and Durand pleaded guilty.
And that, it seemed, was that. Batchelder, in a phone interview, said Durand has no other violations on his Vermont record. “He’s a fairly beloved guy up here,” Batchelder said.
But for Durand, who runs an environmental consulting firm, the 2013 story was still hanging out there.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” Durand said of the original charge. “And I made a mistake by getting up in that tree stand.”
But, he reiterated, he didn’t leave those apples, and emphasized his record on environmental issues, including when he served in the Legislature. And the charge he ultimately pleaded guilty to, he said, shouldn’t disqualify him from serving on MassWildlife’s board.
“It’s like saying whoever gets a speeding ticket shouldn’t work for the Registry of Motor Vehicles,” he said. “Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket?”