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

Granite Falls
Prosecutors: ‘Yo mama’ joke led to racist assault in Granite Falls

A man took offense and went into a rage, spewing racist slurs as he beat up a teenager, charging papers say.

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

The Everett Districting Commission is proposing four adjustments to the city council districts based on 2020 Census data. (City of Everett)
Proposed map shifts every Everett City Council district

Census data from 2020 prompted several “small tweaks” to council district boundaries.

Cars wait to turn onto Highway 9 from Bickford Avenue on Wednesday, May 18, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Highway 9 stretch closing for roundabout work next week

Drivers will need to use detours as the closure affects the stretch between Second and 30th streets in Snohomish.

Commanding Officer Meghan Bodnar is greeted by her son Grady, who hasn’t seen her in 224 days, at Naval Station Everett on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After 200-plus days abroad, Navy destroyers return to Everett homeport

The USS Gridley is one of the few women-led ships, attesting to a growing number of women in the U.S. military.

Snohomish County is considering buying the America's Best Value Inn in Edmonds and converting it into shelter. Photographed in Edmonds, Washington on August 15, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Snohomish County eyes another motel-to-shelter project in Edmonds

The potential $9.1 million purchase was announced on the heels of another proposed motel-to-shelter conversion in Everett.

Community Transit's Lynnwood microtransit pilot project is set to launch this fall with a service area around the Alderwood mall. (Community Transit)
Lynnwood’s microtransit test begins this fall, others possible

Community Transit could launch other on-demand services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

Abortion rights protesters fill all four corners of the intersection in front of the Everett Planned Parenthood in support of abortion rights on Saturday, July 9, 2022 (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
GOP cheered abortion ruling. Democrats responded by voting.

A swell of electoral support for Democrats pushed turnout higher in primary. Republicans look to adjust for November

People begin to gather on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, at the North Mountain Fire Lookout north of Darrington, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘A labor of love’: Restoration of lookout north of Darrington now complete

Volunteers spent eight years repairing the 57-year-old North Mountain Fire Lookout. Last week, they gathered to celebrate.

Most Read