Station KIRO & reported this first. Nearly two dozen people could be charged in a massive poaching case filed in Washington and Oregon. And investigators say much of the evidence against them came from the suspects themselves.
Videos taken by suspected poachers documented what Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers say was the ruthless slaughter of animals. Investigators combed through hours of footage shot on cellphones, and with cameras, showing wildlife tracked, cornered and gunned down. One hundred animals or more were killed simply for the thrill of it.
“They were serial killers of another kind,” said WDFW Deputy Chief Mike Cenci. “I mean I don’t understand the psychology of these people, I never will. But I can tell you they didn’t care about wildlife resources. They certainly didn’t care about the law.”
One video shows a group of people walking on a dirt road waiting for a bear being tracked and chased by dogs. When it ran from the trees it was cut down by gunfire.
Several videos show bears treed by dogs before being shot. The bears fall only to be mauled by the braying pack once they hit the ground. Using dogs to track and corner wild game is illegal in Washington and Oregon.
According to investigators with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife as many as 23 people took part in the poaching ring breaking virtually every hunting law and regulation in Washington and Oregon.
Their alleged killing sprees focused on areas in and near Skamania County and near the Dalles in Oregon. They’re accused of killing animals out of season and in areas closed to hunting, using illegal methods, including using spotlights at night that blinded the animals before they were shot
One video shows a cougar chased up a tree by hounds before it was shot and killed. Videos show several bears shot and killed. Still pictures show bobcat, along with deer, and elk shot illegally, before being beheaded to take their antlers and skulls as trophies.
In most cases said investigators the suspected poachers simply left the carcasses of the slaughtered animals behind to rot in the woods.
“For an agency that is almost spiritually connected with what we do it’s really offensive,” said Cenci. “And I think the public’s really been offended.”
Charges against four of the suspected poachers were filed in Skamania County this week. More charges are expected in both Oregon and Washington state.
Several of the suspects were linked to the suspected ring through text messages and cellphone records allegedly showing the group coordinating illegal kills beginning in 2015.