Poaching … Across State Lines

Above: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Sgt. Josh Waldrip and Cpl. Andrew Joliff recovered this mule deer skull in southeastern New Mexico, with saw marks matching antlers seized from the Louisiana home of Zachary Nolan.

In December 2020, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) officer Troy Florian called New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (Department) Cpl. Andrew Jolliff about a serial poaching case. Florian was investigating Zachary Tyler Nolan of Collinston, Louisiana.  

Florian originally had a search warrant for two poached mule deer heads from Colorado. He’d discovered that they were in Nolan’s possession. As he investigated Nolan, evidence emerged of further violations across state lines: from Texas, Louisiana, Nebraska and Arkansas to New Mexico. 

In January 2021, after Florian’s tip, Jolliff contacted game warden James Hagan of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries. He requested that Hagan help find antlers from a mule deer that had been poached from Loco Hills, New Mexico and seize them from Nolan’s home in Louisiana. Nolan had been working for an oilfield pipeline company near Carlsbad and Artesia at the time the deer was poached.

Above: These mule deer antlers were seized from the home of Zachary Nolan with the help of game warden James Hagan of Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries.

Soon after the antlers were received by the Department’s Roswell office, we determined they were a match. Thanks to coordinates attached to a picture found on Nolan’s phone, Jolliff and his sergeant, Josh Waldrip, located the remains of a deer carcass. The skull’s antlers had been sawed off. Visible saw marks above both antler bases extended over the mule deer skull, matching marks on the antlers seized from Nolan’s home. 

In March 2021, Jolliff and another officer interviewed Nolan with Texas Parks and Wildlife (TPWD) game warden Garrison Howard in Odessa, Texas. Nolan confessed to fishing without a license, illegal possession of game fish (trout, channel catfish, and bluegill), hunting mule deer without a license, unlawful killing of mule deer out of season, waste of game (mule deer), the illegal possession of antlers and a “foot” from one mule deer and the illegal possession of a mule deer skull plate with antlers—all in violation of multiple state hunting laws.

Above: Zachary Nolan also illegally possessed approximately 43 rainbow trout.

In November 2022, Nolan reached a plea agreement with the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office. He plead guilty to charges of fishing without a license, unlawful possession of trout, hunting without a license, unlawful killing, unlawful possession of mule deer and felony waste of game.  

He was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation and will be required to attend and pass a Hunter Education class in addition to paying a fine of $9,462. He also faces $585 in civil fines for the loss of two mule deer and multiple trout, channel catfish and bluegill.  

A serial poacher was brought to justice thanks to this year-long, multi-state investigation conducted by diligent game wardens.

About Melissa Garnett

Melissa Garnett is the Public Information Specialist in the Southeast Area for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.