BUCYRUS — A Crawford County man was found guilty last week on one count of possessing an endangered species and a second count of deterring an officer, both first degree misdemeanors, according to a Ohio Department of Natural Resources press release.
David D. Duncan, 53, of Crestline, changed his plea of not guilty to no contest on both charges during a pre-trial hearing Aug. 31 in Crawford County Municipal Court. Duncan received total fines of $1,500 plus court costs and was placed on probation for a period of three years.
According to Division of Wildlife investigator Jeff Collingwood, on Aug. 10, 2009, Duncan reported he had discovered a hellbender salamander that someone dropped off in a bucket on his front porch. He took the hellbender to the Crawford Park District.
“This was no ordinary salamander,” Collingwood said in the press release. “This one was nearly two feet long and weighed over 2 and one-half pounds. Hellbenders are only found in very clean water river systems.”
Gregg Lipps, a herpetologist and expert on hellbenders, believed this female to be about 50 years old and carrying eggs.
The hellbender had been tagged with a passive integrated transponder, a device implanted within the animal’s body, by a biologist from the New York Department of Environmental Protection. Collingwood said a search of records placed Duncan in New York the three days prior to him coming into possession of the hellbender.
“It isn’t clear whether Duncan was there and captured the hellbender on his own or if he had assistance, but he ended up with it and the evidence is overwhelming,” Collingwood said in the release. “I think he wanted to provide the Park District with a unique animal to put on display but it back-fired on him. Duncan knew what kind of animal he had and that he shouldn’t have had it.”
The animal is being cared for by the Columbus Zoo and authorities hope to return the hellbender to New York for release in the next few weeks.