Wild week for wildlife police: 48 arrests, 24 warnings made

Dan Rahn, Washington Fish and Wildlife department enforcement agent, carries a robotic deer decoy donated to the agency by the Mule Deer Foundation to help set up stings against poachers. Mike Jones, the foundation's Washington chairman is at right. The group has donated about $15,000 worth of equipment to the agency in the past three years. 
 (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Dan Rahn, Washington Fish and Wildlife department enforcement agent, carries a robotic deer decoy donated to the agency by the Mule Deer Foundation to help set up stings against poachers. Mike Jones, the foundation's Washington chairman is at right. The group has donated about $15,000 worth of equipment to the agency in the past three years. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

HUNTING/POACHING — Hunters relished wintery conditions that coincided with the onset of the rut last week. Conditions were good for filling a tag in the final days of the late rifle whitetail buck hunt, which ended Saturday in northeastern Washington.

Poachers seemed to like the conditions, too. Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police made 48 arrests and issued 24 warnings during the past week in the Spokane Region.

Failure to tag a deer or using someone else’s tag on a deer were common infractions, but officers also were ticketing for violations including littering and road-hunting to spotlighting and shooting bucks that didn’t meet the new four-point minimum in Units 117 and 121.

Read on for details about just a few of the more interesting citations and investigations area officers had to deal with in the past week.

Dead meat near Newman Lake: One oficer followed a tip to observe a poacher who shot a buck, loaded it onto the hood of a vehicle quickly without field dressing or tagging it and drove it to a shop deep in the woods near Newman Lake.  He was ticketed on the spot. But the officer likely will be keeping an eye on the place the poacher was taking the illegally killed deer.

As the garage door opened, the officer could see a group of people around a hanging buck and more deer and elk racks on the wall tha the oficer could count.  The shop had a semi-professional butcher shop built in the back and the shop’s owner claimed they killed a lot of elk in Idaho and they do quite well on deer in Washington. Hmm.

How to raise a kid: A deer decoy sting operation suckered what Whorton describe as “one of the more notorious road-hunting families in the Spokane area.” Officers staked out the decoy and wrote tickets as a father who was encouraging his unlicensed 15-year-old son to shoot the decoy.

“The deer decoy has taken a beating this year,” Whorton said.

You must be mistaken, officer:  One officer responded to an anonymous report that an Elk resident had possibly killed a doe and hung it in his front yard wrapped in a sheet. The officer staked out the residence one evening but the suspect did not return and it was discovered later that a neighbor had called him and let him know officers were waiting at his residence.

But when the officers made phone contact with the suspect late that night, he told them his son-in-law had killed a legal buck on his property and the animal was tagged. According to the suspect the antlers were hanging in his tree and the officers must have missed them.

Consent was given over the phone for the officer to return the next day and inspect the deer.  Of course, everything looked good the next day, but the suspect didn’t know the officer had made photos the previous day. A comparison showed that the area had been tampered with overnight.  Upon being confronted with the evidence, the suspect admitted that he had harvested the buck without a license and after finding out officers were looking for him,  used his son-n-law’s deer tag to try and pass the deer off as a legal harvest.  Citations were issued and the suspect’s rifle, the deer and the son-n-law’s tag were seized.

One less secret in Curlew: A known poacher in the Curlew area was investigated for spotlighting. A confession was obtained.

Head-in-sand approach to 4-point rule:  An officer patrolling the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife Refuge found three whitetail bucks that did not meet the four-point standard.  In each case the deer were in plain view with the shooters advising they had not been aware of the rule change. These deer were donated to the Colville Food Bank. 

Other similar four-point violations were reported, and officers are investigating several three-point or smaller bucks that were shot and abandoned.

Officer didn’t buy his story: Two officers responded to a tip involving trespassing and the illegal taking of a large buck in Ferry County (Closed season).  The officers spotted a vehicle fitting the description near the Kettle River.  The two suspects from Western Washington were composed and did not seem the least bit nervous.  The officers noted the tire pattern on the pickup, collected a quick verbal statement and released the men. The officers drove to the site in Ferry County and found where the large buck had been killed on private property.  With snow over a foot deep, the officers could clearly see where the suspects had dragged the deer carcass across two grass fields and Highway395 before stashing it in brush.  Tire tracks found at the scene matched the pattern observed on the truck.  The men were arrested later as they approached a mobile home where the big buck had been left.

The suspect’s custom made rifle and 1999 4x4 Ford F-350 diesel pickup truck were seized as evidence, and will be processed for forfeiture. A check with Clallam County officers and USFW special agents indicated the suspect has been investigated for poaching numerous times.

One man’s garbage is another man’s citation:  Hunters tipped off WDFW officers that somebody had dumped several bags of trash on Riley Creek Lumber Company land. The officer rummaged through the trash and contacted the person whose name showed up several times in the garbage.

The elderly man told officers he paid his neighbor to dump his trash once a month. The officer went to contact the neighbor, contacting him as he was driving away from his home. The driver lied to the officer about his name but did confess he had a suspended driver’s license. The officer escorted the two back to their residence so that he could get proper identification. As they reached the residence the driver exited his vehicle and fled, into the home and ditched the officer by running out the back door. With help from the suspect’s brother, the officer was able to talk the suspect out of the woods before backup had arrived. The suspect was booked on a no bail misdemeanor warrant, driving while license suspended 3rd degree and for litter more than 1 cubic yard. The next day, the judge set bail for $10,000.

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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