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Serial Poacher......



Manhunt on to nab serial elk poachers

Associated Press

KENNEWICK, Wash. - A serial killer is loose in the Blue Mountains.

And though the victims are Rocky Mountain elk, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife is approaching the slaughter of at least 18 animals over the past five weeks as if it were a homicide investigation.

At least 13 branch-antlered trophy bulls, three other mature bulls and two cows, have been reported. In most cases, only the antlers were taken.

Worse, state Fish and Wildlife officer Todd Vandivert of Dayton, who is leading the poaching investigation, said those responsible for the killings are likely to continue until they are caught.

"In some ways, this case is similar to a serial killing. We are trying to gather physical evidence such as tire tracks, foot prints and bullets, which we would use to match with a suspect. The hard part is connecting the killings to a suspect or suspects. We have plenty of tips, but we don't have any suspects. We're hoping they make a mistake or that a witness or someone who might know them comes forward," he said.

Vandivert said the recent string of elk poachings, which is now up to over 40 animals in the last year, is the worst he's ever witnessed.

"Normally in the Blue Mountain area of Walla Walla, Garfield, Asotin and Columbia counties we might see three or four poaching incidents a year. Last year, it jumped to 26 and we're actually ahead of last year's pace considering how early in the year the poachings have started," he said.

Vandivert said he's particularly surprised by the boldness of the poachers who are killing the animals during established hunting seasons when the woods are full of witnesses.

Most of the dead elk have been found in the Eckler Mountain, Jasper Mountain and Skyline Roads areas south of Dayton in Columbia County.

The elk killings have apparently struck a nerve with just about everyone who has heard about the tragic losses.

"We've received at least 35 to 40 calls, but most of them are pretty general, he said.

And, as in a serial killing case, Vandivert has a profile of those who could be responsible.

"To poach this many elk, somebody has to know what they're doing because the elk are being taken in so many areas and at all times of the day and night. I believe it's someone who is very familiar with area," he said.

Typically, wildlife officers run across two types of poachers.

One is the opportunist who makes a stupid mistake.

Then there's the repeat offender, or serial poacher.

"Because of the number of elk killed, I believe we have at least two different groups or entities committing these crimes. I also feel they are moving into the showing off stage. I think it's become a thrill for them," he said.

But Vandivert has no doubt the case will be solved. And money could prove to be an incentive to give someone up.

The state and Hunters Heritage Council are offering about $2,500 in rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the poachers.

Officials needs names, vehicle license numbers and other information to help in the investigation that presently involves at least three wildlife officers.

While big-game poaching is generally a gross misdemeanor, it could be a felony depending on the suspect's prior record.

Also, a big-game poaching conviction carries a mandatory state penalty of $6,000 for each trophy animal killed. A person convicted also could face additional fines of up to $5,000 and up to a year in jail for each count.

Because of the severity of the poaching, Vandivert believes a judge or jury would likely impose the maximum penalties.

The elk killings also are likely to have an impact on future hunting in the Blues, wildlife officials say.

This year, no permits for branch-antlered bulls were issued in the Tucannon and Dayton game management units because of poaching. And the poachers have again targeted animals in the Dayton and Tucannon units, as well as Blue Creek.

Dinah Demers, the Fish and Wildlife's regional wildlife program manager in Spokane, said branch-antlered permits are determined upon the bull-to-cow ratio and the loss of this many mature bulls could have a dramatic effect on the stability of the overall herd.

The Blue Mountain elk population -- estimated at about 4,440 animals -- has been stabilizing in recent years following a decline based on several factors including predation, loss of habitat and poaching, Demers said.

The poachings could also affect hunter-landowner relations, which have been tenuous at best in the Blues.

"This kind of behavior that can ruin it for everybody," Vandivert said, "which is why I'm encouraging people to step forward with any information they have, even if they're not sure."

"I'd rather get a lot of useless information then not receive that one tip that could help me solve the case," he added.

Those guy's live quite away's from the killing fields..This is they type of stuff that the news media will portray as evil and usually alway's tack the word hunter with it...It is a very dark day. These individuals should be skinned alive, have salt water tossed on there bodies, then poke them with hot pokers until they are dead. Then to set an example,they should be hung by a low intensity fire for all to watch their worthless hides dry and flap whistfully in the wind... :mad:
Cut their nuts off and stuff them down their throats, then have Bubba gouge their eye balls out and skull Fugg them.

Nothing worse than a trophy poacher. If a guys family is starving and he brings a doe home or something, I really dont care, but a guy that poaches just for the horns..... Gotta get midievil on their asses!
I live about 3 hours from there and thats all ive heard of to from the story, there was another article pretty much the same on the fish and game page. They do need to be skinned alive, that area has huge bulls down there and its hard to draw a permit.
First I've heard of it! Obviuosly they haven't hit the big newspapers with this or I would have. They need to get it into the Post Intelligencer or the Seattle times. That will raise some eyebrows. I am 6 or 7 hours from that area so I am not local. That's really too bad as I know a lot of the guys would put in for those permits in that area. What a shame.
Just wondering what you guys had heard Ray.......that is amazing they have killed so many and have yet to get nailed. Heck, they are doing it in hunting season with tons of folks out and about hunting.......they make a wrong move soon I would imagine. And what the hell do they plan on doing with that many trophy racks? If they start unloading them are showing them off, it will be they're undoing.....
There is such a market for good quality trophies that it is not easy to catch someone offloading a few. Now you get the hairtrigger people calling for some sort of law to stop this sort of thing.... and then it won't be legal to sell any part of legally killed animals. There is so many undercover agents now that they know who is doing it but are just waiting to nab the Big fish in the operation. Just hang tough and don't be calling for any sort of laws b/c you already have the laws, they just need to be enforced.
I think they need another law .....

Just like they enacted a new "trophy" law in Co when a pet bull was killed in Estes Park. The Samson law made severe fines and penaltys for those taking deer and elk over "x" number of points and "x" number of inches...trying to discern between the regular old poacher that shot an extra one for the freezer....and those poachers that would kill animals just for the rack and discard the aniimal.

I hope a new law comes out of this one..a "serial poacher" law. If a guy kills "x" amount of animals, he gets the max!
Just like they do with drugs, and the intent to distribute when you exceed a certain amount. You can't tell me these guys deserve any less for the mass poaching they are doing.
Take it this way.... someone is caught with one that is known to have been poached. Do you watch him hoping he'll poach another one so you can convict him of the max or do you convict him on the the first one you caught him with? Too many times they have waited to catch someone to give them the max when they prob should have had a good case on the very first.
Amen DS,

I love the Samson law.. Samson was cool. I had the luxury of seeing him alive.. He was truly tame. I say throw him in and throw away the key!
It's my understanding, that through moneys donated by several organizations, the different Game and Fish departments now have DNA testing available to them for use in poaching cases. If you find someone with a poached rack, you go to everyone he knows and take DNA samples from trophies they have. Hang the guilty ones from a tree and let the ones proven innocent pull on the rope.

True Dan..they use it here and have solved cases 5 or 6 years old using DNA. Another tool is ballistics. A DOW officer retrieved a bullet from an elk killed out of season, and while there were no suspects, the bullet was kept on file......that was 5 or 6 years ago. Last year, a guy was caught killing too many hunting. Another guy on the next hill was pissed this guy killed two elk, one for himself, and one for his buddy back at camp. So he gets on his cell, calls game and fish.....theyr espond to the area quickly, pressure the guy and tell of their eye witness account. He caves in and they ticket him for the violation....upon further investigation, a radio call tells them he has prior offenses, so they confiscate his rifle.......later run a ballistics test just as police would in a shooting's a dead match for the old unsolved case on file, so they charge him also with the 5 year old poaching of the other bull.....and he is sent down the river for a while.....

Lost.....I seriously doubt they would intentionally let a poacher continue his ways if they had the goods on him. That would be like letting a murderer go in hopes of catching him as a serial differance....just not gonna happen that way I don't think.

I understand your stance of "less government".....but I really don't think it applies very well in this case....
In Washington there is a $6000 fine for any trophy deer or elk killed illegally. Trophy deer is defined as a 4 point, and trophy elk as a 5 point or better. It's $2000 if not a "trophy." So this poacher (or poachers) are looking at a pretty substanitial fine when they are caught.
If they are sawing off the racks, I would almost bet that they are ending up as a powder in some of the local china towns that are all over the area, or down the coast. One good rack would pay a handsome ransome in some of these communities... :mad:
If this is the case, how do you catch that. I have found in the Cle-elem area, headless carcusses. They were eaten down to the bones, but no head to be found any where, and the neck bones where the head should have been, had been either sawed or hacked on...I looked hard for the ones responsible, it would have been fun, "Playing with them" in the mountains..I already had plans if I would have caught up with them.... ;) :mad:
Blackail boy:
I like you're way of thinking. That was the first thing I thought when I seen that. I just didn't want to be the first to come out and say it. :D The worst part about it is they don't get in trouble half the time when they do get caught. This one may be different though. Let's hope. That's not to say I think a tribal member did it but there is always the possibility as it has happened a number of times before, as we all know here, in Washington.
My wife and I found a pile of salmon that had been dumped, probably some 1000 plus fish, was told that they are milked for their eggs and then dumped. So much for natives taking care of the land...

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