Poacher kills 63 caribou and 18 moose, commits attempted murder, brawls with wardens, shoots one and slashes the other twice… and then is allowed to go free!

What follows shares the fascinating capture of one of the most notorious poachers in Maine history. The piece originally appeared in the NEW YORK SUN and was later reprinted on page one of the September 24, 1897, edition of the RANGELY LAKES. This epic is packed with truly unbelievable facts, feats and in the case of the two tough Maine Game Wardens who lived to tell the tale… truly unbelievable forgiveness. Enjoy what follows and be sure to get outside and make some lawful outdoor history of your own!


The most daredevil outlaw who came to the Maine woods was Paul Savarin, a French-Canadian guide, who lived just over the line in New Brunswick. He started in life as a smuggler of Scotch whiskey, but a long imprisonment in Houlton jail cooled his ardor in this direction and started him a poacher and sneak thief. He acted as guide in the summer and autumn. As soon as the snow grew deep, making hard traveling for big game, lie put on his snowshoes and killed moose and caribou for their pelts, leaving their carcasses to be eaten by foxes and bobcats. In one winter, he sold the hides of 800 caribou and 350 moose to one firm of snowshoe makers. It is estimated that fie killed 1,000 moose and caribou every year for ten years. Of course, the game wardens were anxious to get him. A dozen or more wardens were sent out at different times, but then they came back home of them wished to make a second trip. Savarin had a Playful way of sending bullets among the hot ashes of the evening campfire which the wardens did not enjoy. A few officers stayed on Savarin’s trail a week or so, and one party drove him-across the state line but nobody caught him, and nobody seemed desirous of meeting him alone. In January 1895, Bill Moriarty volunteered to capture Savarin or scare him so badly that he never would come back to Maine. Accompanied by Tom Sheehan, a big telegraph lineman of Bangor, Bill started for Washington county carrying a whole arsenal of firearms and provisions enough to last a month. On the headwaters of the St. Croix, they found the bodies of three frozen moose, and they knew that Savarin was nearby. Lying in sleeping bags and kindling no fires, they walked about sixty miles northwest and found a ^hole yard of dead caribou that had just been skinned. Nearby, hidden under an upturned tree wore sixty-three caribou and eighteen moose hides. Following Savarin’s tracks a few miles further, they saw a strip of birch bark pegged to a tree. Scratched in charcoal on this bark was a rude drawing of Savarin aiming his rifle at Moriarty and Sheehan. On the other side of the bark was a charcoal sketch of Savarin giving a war dance upon the bodies of the two wardens. This was put up to tell the wardens that they would be shot if they went on. They walked two miles deeper into the woods, wallowed down a great tract of snow, and turning their snowshoes heels in front, retraced their steps and concealed themselves close to the hidden pile of hides, knowing that Savarin would return for his treasures in a short time. For two days they waited. The weather was so cold that the Bangor whiskey which the wardens had brought along to use in case of sickness, froze up and broke the bottles. Early on the morning of the third day, when both men were badly frost bitten, they heard the familiar crunch of snowshoes coming through the woods half a mile away. Moriarty gave Sheehan his instructions, and, putting on his snowshoes, made a wide detour to come in behind Savarin. Sheehan, fixing up a dummy, left it in his exposed sleeping bag and hid in a fir thicket which Moriarty had designated. Savarin, expecting some sort of ruse, came on cautiously. Sheehan, who had a good view of him, said the French Canadian was the worst looking object he had ever seen. Creeping like a cat through the underbrush, Savarin saw the sleeping bag, and taking good aim at the head of the dummy, fired three shots from his Winchester. The impact of the bullets, combined with a sharp gust of wind, tipped the bag over, and it rolled into a hollow. With a yell learned from the wild Indians of Canada, Savarin leaped upon the bag, and before he had discovered his mistake Moriarty and Sheehan grappled with him. Though the fight was two against one, Savarin, having more at stake, made a gallant resistance. A bullet from his revolver went through the muscle of Moriarty’s arm, and twice his hunting knife drew blood from Sheehan. In return Moriarty pounded his face with a pine knot until he was unable to see, after which he was handcuffed and tied up with rawhide thongs. After a fire had been built and a block of whiskey had been thawed out, Moriarty made Savarin an offer. According to the usage of the Maine courts the man who kills a caribou and cannot pay his fine goes to jail for three months, while the man who fails to pay his assessment for slaying a moose gets six months. According to Maine justice the sixty-three caribou and eighteen moose which Savarin had killed entitled him to free board in the county jail in the state for twenty-four years and nine months, so if he began his term then and there he could not get out until September, 19i9, which was a long way to look ahead. Moriarty said he did not wish to punish Savarin, but he did mean to put a stop to crust hunting, and asked Savarin if he would take an oath before his parish priest that he would never come to Maine again. As Savarin was glad to accept any terms, Sheehan was sent off on a 200- mile snowshoe journey after the priest, while Moriarty and his prisoner regaled themselves on moose and caribou steaks. Savarin’s father and brother returned with the priest and among them they drew up an ironclad contract which Savarin has kept faithfully. On Moriarty’s return to Bangor the commissioners lectured him roundly for letting such a prize slip through his hands.

A sobering image entitled, “The Noblest of His Kind” by Starbird. The last “legal” caribou was shot in Maine in 1914.

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