A Massachusetts man has been charged with illegally buying snowshoe hares trapped live in Maine and selling them to beagle clubs in his home state to be used in field trials.
Jon Rioux, 35, of North Attleborough is charged with four counts of interstate wildlife trafficking and one count of attempted wildlife trafficking over the past year.
It is illegal to transport rabbits from Maine to other states and sell them without a permit. Rioux did not have one, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Portland.
He allegedly paid between $70 and $100 per hare in Maine and sold them in Massachusetts for between $100 and $200.
In a beagle Hound Field Trial, dogs run in packs of two or more to follow a rabbit or hare, according to the American Kennel Club. Dogs are judged on their ability to follow the animal’s trail. The goal isn’t to hunt or harm them, according to the club.
The investigation into Rioux began last year when he allegedly solicited Maine residents to sell him live trapped snowshoe rabbits. Agents with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, a division of the Department of the Interior, learned of Rioux’s activities and went undercover to investigate.
Between February 2021 and March 16, the agents trapped at least a dozen of the hares to sell to Rioux, according to the complaint. Rioux initially would meet them in parking lots of retail outlets in southern Maine. This month, he asked them to meet him at the Kittery rest stop because his wife is pregnant and he wanted to be closer to home.
Rioux was arrested Wednesday. He appeared remotely before U.S. District Judge Jon Levy the next day and was released on $10,000 unsecured bail. Rioux would not have to post the bail unless he fails to make court appearances in Maine.
He was not asked to enter pleas to the charges, which include three federal felonies and two misdemeanors.
The U.S. Attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case, and the Federal Defenders office, which represents Rioux, declined to comment on the case.
If convicted, Rioux faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000 on the felony counts and up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000 on the misdemeanor count.