Field reports: Wildlife trafficker gets minimal sentence

POACHING – A Tacoma man described as “one of the largest illegal wildlife traffickers in Washington state history” was sentenced last week to 30 days of community service and 60 days’ home detention for selling deer, elk and sturgeon in violation of state law.

Bona Bunphoath, 46, had pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree unlawful trafficking in fish and wildlife.

Bunphoath was arrested in 2012 after investigators with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife learned he was illegally dealing in wild game and set up a sting to catch him, court records show.

Fish and Wildlife detective Todd Vandivert, now retired, detailed his investigation in a letter to the court.

Vandivert said he and his partner, over the course of 19 months, bought 10 whole elk carcasses and three deer from Bunphoath and sold him one deer. The going price for an elk was $600, with deer going for $200-$250, court records show.

“Additionally, Mr. Bunphoath sold or coordinated the sale of 11 sturgeon,” Vandivert said. “As you can guess, we were not Mr. Bunphoath’s only customers … he several times told us he had many customers for his illegal fish and wildlife and had no problem selling animals to others.”

Investigators say many of the animals were harvested out of season by people in the Yakima area and sold to Bunphoath, who then resold them.

“I assure the court Mr. Bunphoath was fully aware of just how illegal the sale of deer and elk is in Washington,” Vandivert said. “… Mr. Bunphoath is one of the largest illegal wildlife traffickers in Washington state history (if not the single largest), and his activities have had a tremendous adverse impact to the wildlife populations of our state.”

Vandivert asked for the “most severe penalties possible.”

Bunphoath faced prison time under the original nine counts. But Pierce County prosecutors and defense attorney Michael Schwartz engineered a plea deal in which Bunphoath avoided a harsher sentence by agreeing to cooperate with authorities in their investigation of others.

Coastal Conservation group to meet

FISHING – A meeting to kick off a Spokane chapter of the Coastal Conservation, advocacy group for salmon, steelhead and other Northwest fish, is set for Wednesday, 6 p.m., at the No-Li Brewery.

Info: Wayne Jordan, (509) 294-8122.

Hunter education classes filling

HUNTING – Anyone born after 1971 must complete a hunter education course as a prerequisite to purchasing a Washington hunting license.

If you’ve set your sights on the 2014 seasons, wait no longer to get enrolled in remaining classes that are filling quickly.

Check them out at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/

Elk herd straggler video goes viral

CRITTERS –A Bozeman man’s 3-minute video of hundreds of elk hopping a fence and crossing a road east of Bozeman – and the perseverance of one straggler to keep up with the group – is an online hit.

See the video at spokesman.com/blogs/ outdoors.

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