Reports detail extensive poaching ring in Washington, Oregon

By Gene Johnson / Associated Press

CENTRALIA — An extensive poaching ring is responsible for slaughtering more than 100 black bears, cougars, bobcats, deer and elk in southwestern Washington state and northwestern Oregon, with many of the animals hunted with dogs and then left to rot, authorities said Friday.

“There was an absolute wanton disregard for our conservations laws,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Capt. Jeff Wickersham said.

Seven people — six adults, some of whom have previously been targeted in poaching investigations, and one juvenile — have been charged so far, but investigators plan to recommend charges against more people, he said. Some face upward of 60 counts related to illegal hunting and wasting animals.

The investigation was reported this week by The Chronicle newspaper of Centralia, which said it had obtained hundreds of pages of case reports from the department through a public records request.

According to the documents, the hunters often used dogs — sometimes as many as 11. The 50-plus poaching expeditions date back to 2015. The vast majority took place within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, often in remote areas either closed to hunting or in areas where special permits are required.

The Associated Press could not immediately locate contact information for the defendants, and it was not immediately clear if any had obtained lawyers. Several were scheduled to make initial court appearances later this month.

The investigation began with Oregon State Police troopers who were looking into poaching in The Dalles, charging papers filed in Skamania County Superior Court say. Last December, the troopers contacted and interviewed two Longview, Washington, men, William Haynes and Erik Martin, who, the troopers said, confessed to illegally killing deer in Oregon and bringing their heads and antlers back to Washington.

The troopers contacted authorities in Washington, who recovered 27 deer heads and a bull elk unlawfully possessed by Haynes and a co-defendant, the charging papers say.

In executing search warrants for the suspects’ cellphones, the documents say, investigators found pictures, text messages and videos linking several other people to the poaching.

In several cases, Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Brad Rhoden said, agents were able to use the location services on the phone to travel to where photos had been taken of the defendants posing with their kills. When they got there, they discovered the animals’ remains, with intact skeletons.

“The bears really suffered the brunt of this,” Rhoden said Friday. “They were just killed and left.”

Talk to us

More in Local News

2021 survey results from the State Broadband Survey for Snohomish County. (Washington State Department of Commerce)
$16M grant to speed up broadband to north Snohomish County

In Darrington and elsewhere, rural residents have struggled to work remotely during the pandemic. A new project aims to help.

Christa Meyer, residential physical therapist in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, plays Wordle daily. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
What in the world is Wordle? It’s an online game C-R-A-Z-E

Solving the daily five-letter brain teaser in six tries is the latest social media obsession.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Everett in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Woman’s foot burned in south Everett apartment fire

Everyone escaped the fire that scorched a third-floor unit Monday night.

Police: Everett man left family member with life-threatening injuries

An Everett man, 23, was in jail on $100,000 bail after being accused of confronting women and attacking a relative.

Michelle Roth is a registered nurse in the Providence Emergency Department on Sunday, January 23, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Nurses face burnout as hospital staffing shortage continues

‘It feels like there has been a mass exodus in the last two to three months.’

Branden McKinnon (Family photo)
Lawsuit blames mother’s unsecured gun for Marysville boy’s death

Branden McKinnon, 12, got hold of a gun belonging to his mother, a Department of Corrections lieutenant. His father is suing.

A chair lift sits idle on Stevens Pass Thursday afternoon on December 30, 2021.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
A blizzard of Stevens Pass complaints hits the AG’s office

The ski resort’s new manager says he’s working to address frustrations about lines and closures.

A SWAT team responds during an 8-hour standoff between police and a man brandishing a knife at a home in south Edmonds on Sunday night. (Edmonds Police Department)
9-hour Edmonds standoff with knife-wielding man ends in arrest

The man reportedly threatened to kill his family. Police spent hours trying to get him to come outside.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘White saviorhood’: Mukilteo schools end ‘Mockingbird’ requirement

The book is not banned in the school district. The last book brought before the school board was by Maya Angelou.

Most Read