An Arlington man pleaded guilty to poaching after federal authorities used DNA evidence to link him to an elk killed in Mount Rainier National Park.
Dean Douglas Harriman, 48, was sentenced this week by a magistrate to pay a $500 fine and make $2,500 restitution. He also is banned from the national park for a year, and his Washington state hunting privileges were revoked for a year.
A park volunteer discovered a fresh elk kill site within the park on Nov. 6, 2004. The location was on Carlton Ridge in the southwest part of the park, but well within the park boundaries, park spokesman Chuck Young said. Hunting in national parks is illegal, he said.
U.S. National Park Service rangers investigated, and contacted Harriman and five other hunters camped just south of the park in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. The party had killed an elk and had the head and meat in their possession.
Harriman told rangers that he shot and tagged the elk on opening day of the season in the White Pass area outside the park.
Rangers asked to take tissue samples of the tagged elk to see if it was the same elk killed within the park. Harriman refused, Young said.
Instead, rangers gathered samples of blood spatters in the camp, and blood drippings from sacks of meat hanging in the trees. DNA from those samples was compared with the elk parts found at the kill site within the park.
The samples were sent to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab in Ashland, Ore., for analysis, and the lab confirmed that materials found from the two sites came from the same elk.
The four other hunters were not prosecuted due to lack of evidence, Young said. While Harriman had claimed the elk was killed at White Pass, he admitted doing the shooting.
Park poaching prosecutions are infrequent, Young said.
“It’s a big area and a lot of things need to come together to get a good case,” Young said. Federal investigators are convinced the hunter knew he was in the park when he shot the elk, Young added.
Young reminded hunters that wildlife is protected in national parks. People with questions ought to check with park authorities about boundaries if they plan to hunt, Young said.
Besides park rangers, the case was investigated by officers from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service.
Reporter Jim Haley: 425-339-3447 or firstname.lastname@example.org.