The poaching case in the past week underscores the importance of respecting the state's wildlife, a Game and Fish Department spokeswoman said.

"Wyoming's wildlife is important to everyone in Wyoming, whether you're a wildlife watcher, whether you're a hunter, or whether you just like to know that they're on the side of the road as you're driving by," Janet Milek said.

"The majority of hunters are very ethical and very legal, and it's just a small portion of people that do take animals illegally," Milek said.

Six Illinois residents broke that trust with Wyoming's wildlife last week when they hunted and killed at least five pronghorn antelope and were charged with multiple game violations.

The 24 citations included wanton destruction of big game, failure to tag, taking (and being an accessory to) antelope without a license, taking (and being an accessory to) big game from a vehicle, taking (and being an accessory) the wrong sex of an animal, hunting in the wrong area, and shooting from a roadway. Another antelope was shot, killed and left, Milek added.

On Monday, they pleaded no contest to the high misdemeanors in Natrona County Circuit Court.

They were ordered to pay $27,000 in fines and restitution, among other penalties and forfeiture of the rifle used in the crimes, according to court records. The defendants are Mudasser Khan, Yasir Khan, Jameel Qureshi, Mohd Saleem, Syed Quadri and Irfan Kahn. Another man, Sikander Khan, pleaded not guilty to the poaching charges.

Milek said the case started Friday afternoon when the Game and Fish Department received a tip of possible illegal hunting on 33 Mile Road west of Casper.

Court records said the woman who reported the activity saw a red pickup with Illinois plates, and she began driving after it until authorities stopped it on U.S. Highway 20-26.

Game wardens, the Wyoming Highway Patrol, the Mills Police Department and the Natrona County Sheriff's Office responded and stopped the pickup, Milek said. "Upon that traffic stop we did find four illegally poached pronghorn antelope at that time. Upon further investigation we were able to go to a house that they were renting while they were visiting Wyoming, and they were able to end up making the case that was settled in court."