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Top illegal wildlife dealer in state gets slap on wrist

POACHING — Mercy. The value of wildlife seems to have gone down the tubes with a relatively light sentence in Western Washington last week.

“A Tacoma man described as 'one of the largest illegal wildlife traffickers in Washington state history' was sentenced Friday to 30 days of community service and 60 days’ home detention for selling deer, elk and sturgeon in violation of state law,” the Tacoma News-Tribune reports.

See the story, and shake your head.

Fish and wildlife enforcement tall order for sparse staff

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — In today's Outdoors column, a veteran hunter laments at the amount of poaching he says goes on where he grew up in Pend Oreille County.

“It's a crazy deal,” he said. “The losers up here are the winners.”

Is it realistic to expect the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to get a handle on poaching?

Most of the 10 easternmost counties have just one Fish and Wildlife cop, except Spokane County has four and Stevens County has three. Plus, one sergeant helps cover the field as needed for Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille County. There’s also sergeant overseeing Spokane and Lincoln counties and one for Whitman, Asotin, Garfield, Columbia  and Walla Walla counties.

Add the captain that supervises enforcement for all 10 counties in Region 1 and you have a total of 18 fish and wildlife cops covering or supervising the 15,800 square miles from Oregon to Canada and from Idaho to a line roughly north and south of Ritzville.

That averages out to one field enforcement officer per 929 square miles.

And two positions currently need to be filled.

Reward in Stevens County wolf poaching case jumps to $22,500

POACHING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is seeking the public's help to identify the person or persons responsible for shooting and killing a gray wolf last month in Stevens County.

A 2-year-old black female wolf from the Smackout Pack was found dead Feb. 9 near Cedar Lake in northeast Stevens County. The condition of the carcass indicated it had died between Feb. 5 and Feb. 7, and a veterinarian's examination confirmed it had been shot.

Wildlife managers had captured the wolf about a year ago and fitted it with a radio collar so they could track its movements and those of her pack members.

WDFW, with the help of three non-profit organizations, is offering a reward of up to $22,500 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case. Conservation Northwest, the Center for Biological Diversity, and The Humane Society of the United States, have each pledged $7,500 to create the reward.

Gray wolves are protected throughout the state. WDFW is responsible for management of wolves and enforcement of laws to protect them. The illegal killing of a wolf or other endangered fish or wildlife species is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

Sergeant Pam Taylor of the WDFW Northeast Washington Region is leading the investigation. She urged people with knowledge of the crime to report it confidentially by calling WDFW's poaching hotline, 877-933-9847, or by texting a tip to 847411.

Turkey poaching least of crimes for bagged Okanogan felons

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Some creepy wild life is going on in remote areas of Okanogan County, although it's been thinned out in recent months by Fish and Wildlife cops.

Felons and a sex offender illegally possession firearms, running a still, whacking turkeys out of season — oh, my! — and they had the balls to get in the face of an undercover officer who was just out “minding his own business” on a public road?  

Law-abiding sportsmen will enjoy the following report on a satisfying bust by the WDFW.  Click continue reading….

Fish-game cops need help with poaching cases

HUNTING/FISHING — Poaching is a live and well in the region's mountains and streams, and state fish and wildlife officers in Washington and Idaho are looking for help making cases.   Two in particular include:

Entiat bucks:  A $2,000 reward is being offered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife  for substantial information leading to charges filed against the person(s) involved in poaching trophy class deer.

Two mule deer bucks were shot from Mud Creek Road in the Entiat Valley during the first two weeks of January 2014. The poacher(s) attempted to hide the deer, leaving the antlers and meat to waste (though they likely planned to return later to retrieve the antlers).

  • Contact Officer Oswald, (509) 630.0536, or email eric.oswald@dfw.wa.gov.  All reports will be confidential and the reporting party's identity will be protected.

Clearwater steelhead: On Friday, Feb. 28, poachers left their mark at the Ahsahka boat ramp on the North Fork of the Clearwater River, according to Idaho Fish and Game oficials. 

A call to the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline led an Idaho Fish and Game officer to the scene where six steelhead had been left to waste.  Six female fish were all over the 28 inch length limit and one still had an adipose fin indicating it was most likely a wild fish. All fish had been gutted and thrown alongside the boat ramp near the water’s edge.  The persons reporting the crime said they had been fishing earlier in the day at that same location and the fish were not there.  They returned to go fishing in the afternoon and found the fish that had been left to waste. 

One of the people reporting the crime stated, “Those fish could have feed my family for quite a while…  but instead someone saw it fit to catch and kill illegal fish and then waste the meat.”  Someone knows who did this.  It was likely more than one person.  Without the help of a responsible honest person, these dishonest violators will get away with stealing the wildlife resource that belongs to the people of Idaho.

  • Contact CAP hotline, (800) 632-5999 or Officer Dave Beaver, (208) 791-5118.  Anyone providing information can remain anonymous.  

Washington wildlife cops bust black market crabbing ring

FISHERIES — A ring of commercial fishermen gone bad has been nabbed selling crabs — often undersized and removed from the sea before they could spawn a new generation — on the black market around Puget Sound.

See the undercover video in a report by KING 5 TV.

Conservation group staffer admits to elk poaching

HUNTING — The Idaho director for the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has pleaded guilty to charges of illegally killing and wasting elk, according to an Idaho State Journal report.

Marv Hoyt is set to retire from his position at the end of this month following and Idaho Fish and Game Department investigation that led to his admissions last month that he illegally killed and wasted two elk, coalition staff confirmed to the Journal.

Wildlife advocate pleads guilty to poaching

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho director for the wildlife advocacy group Greater Yellowstone Coalition has pleaded guilty to poaching two elk. The Idaho State Journal (http://bit.ly/SxHTxs ) reports Marv Hoyt is currently on vacation and will retire from his post at the end of the year. Hoyt pleaded guilty last month to misdemeanor charges of unlawful taking of game and wasteful destruction of wildlife. Prosecutors said Hoyt only had one elk tag but that he killed three cow elk during a November hunting trip in Caribou County. Fish and Game officer Blake Phillips found the three elk carcasses. The first elk had been gutted and the meat taken, but the other two had not been harvested.

Fish poacher charged for trying to run over wildlife agent

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — The bad news from Banks Lake is that an apparently organized criminal element of Eastern European descent continues to thumb its nose at Washington fish and wildlife regulations and kill massive amounts of sportfish.

The good news is that by allegedly attempting to run over a fish and wildlife officer who caught him illegally gillnetting whitefish on Thursday night, one of their ilk may have gone far enough to get a sentence that goes beyond a fine and a slap on the wrist for his crime.

To bring you up to speed on some of the activity related to criminal gillnetting of sportfish:

The latest incident occurred late the Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013.  Here's the report from Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Police Facebook page:
Late Thursday night, Sergeant (Mike) Jewell and Officer (Wil) Smith were patrolling Banks Lake (Grant County) after receiving several reports of subjects illegally netting whitefish in the area. Unfortunately, this activity has become all too common during the late fall and early winter when thousands of these fish begin to gather to spawn. Although each angler is already allowed to retain 15 fish per day using hook and line, sadly, that doesn’t seem to satisfy the greed of some.

While checking areas of the shoreline in the dark, the two Officers located numerous bags of fish hidden in the rocks, as well as several illegal gill nets deployed in the water north of the Million Dollar Mile. Expecting the culprits to return and retrieve their illegal bounty, the Officers hid nearby and waited.

Just as suspected, a van pulled up around midnight and five people jumped out to retrieve the nets and begin loading the fish into the vehicle. When the officers tried to contact the wayward group, the suspects fled in the van, nearly striking Officer Smith in the process. As the Officers continued their pursuit over 40 miles, they watched as the suspects threw bags of fish and illegal nets out the side of the van in an effort to dispose of the evidence. The pursuit ended on Highway 2 near the town of Douglas in Douglas County, where the suspects were finally stopped. Several Deputies from Douglas County and a State Trooper from the Wenatchee area arrived to assist WDFW Police Officers. Once the suspects were apprehended, the Officers went back and recovered over 175 fish and three gill nets from the shoulder of the roadway.
 
The driver of the van, Mikhail N. Mitsevich, 38, of Everett, was booked into the Grant County Jail on felony charges of attempting to elude police and 2nd degree assault (the officer would have had to be hit in order to bump it up to 1st degree) for nearly running over Officer Smith. The other four accomplices were all charged with multiple gross misdemeanor fishing violations and the vehicle was seized.
 

State seeks tips on trophy whitetail poached near Republic

HUNTING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife requests information leading to the arrest of suspects involved in the killing of a trophy white-tailed deer near Republic in northeast Washington’s Ferry County. 

The deer may have been killed near Gibraltar Mountain and Sherman Pass near the end of November.

Contact the WDFW Eastern Region Office at 892-1001. 

Information can also be reported anonymously through WDFW poaching hotline, 1-877-933-9847, or online.  

$5,000 reward offered in Idaho cow elk poaching case

POACHING — Rewards of up to $5,000 are being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for illegally shooting a cow elk recently and leaving it to waste on private land between Moscow and Troy.

Anyone with information concerning the killing of this elk can call Idaho Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999 or Idaho Fish and Game’s Lewiston office at 208-799-5010

Magazine photo helps nail poacher of Washington buck

HUNTING — A two-page spread in a popular deer hunting magazine that included trophy photographs of bucks got an Oklahoma City man in trouble with the law, federal prosecutors said last week.

Officials said the buck was illegally shot in Washington's Capitol State Forest before being shipped to Oklahoma, according to the story moved by the Associated Press.

Kyle McCormack, 26, was sentenced to a year of probation and will pay a $500 fine after he pleaded guilty to illegally transporting wildlife in interstate commerce, U.S. Attorney Sanford Coats said.

A two-page article in the July 2012 issue of Buckmasters Magazine credited to McCormack led to a tip that prompted federal and state officials to launch an investigation, Sanford said. Investigators determined that the wildlife was illegally killed in Washington and then shipped to Oklahoma, and that McCormack didn’t have valid hunting licenses in the locations cited in the article.

He was charged earlier this month with illegally transporting elk and black-tailed deer antlers in interstate commerce, and pleaded guilty to both misdemeanor counts, court records show. Court documents indicate McCormack knew the animals were illegally killed in Washington’s Capitol State Forest.

Bowhunter web sites picked up on the residency hunting license discrepancies in the story by September 2012.

As part of the plea agreement, McCormack also agreed to pay $2,500 into the Lacey Act Reward Account.

Enacted more than 100 years ago to curtail the hunting black market, the Lacey Act is a federal law that governs the interstate commerce of fish and wildlife. 

State files 33 trophy deer poaching charges against Okanogan man

HUNTING — His boasting on Facebook apparently has helped Washington Fish and Wildlife police make a case on a 24-year-old Okanogan man and charge him with 33 counts of illegal hunting activities involving trophy mule deer. 

The case was made nine months after the agency posted on Facebook a request — and a $2,500 reward — for the public's help in solving a spree killing case.

The case against Garret V.J. Elsberg, a member of the Colville Tribe, is detailed by Andy Walgamott of Northwest Sportsman.

Hunter bags whitetail buck; thief steals meat

HUNTING — The code of ethics among hunters is eroding, as this Eastern Washington sportsman graphically points out in the following message to Washington Fish and Wildlife police:

Here are pictures of the deer that I shot Saturday, Oct. 19, near Rock Lake.  I shot the deer about 9:30 a.m. and processed it and put it into game bags.  The hind quarters I hung in a tree about 50 yards from where I shot the deer and the rib cage I set on a stump.  I left the head lying by the gut pile.  I took the front quarters back to the truck (.85 miles according to my GPS) to get my pack frame. 

My wife met me where I had parked my pickup and we went in to get the rest of the deer. It took 1.5 hours from the time I left to when I returned and found all that was left was the gut pile. 

Whoever took the meat cut the rope out of the tree. 

It is a sad day when someone steals a man's deer. 

Anyone with tips or information about this wildlife crime can qualify for a reward by calling the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847 or the Spokane Region office at (509) 892-1001.  

What's going on out there?

Officers bag bull elk poaching suspect in Pend Oreille County

POACHING — Officers from three enforcement agencies worked together to make a case and a male suspect has been charged for illegally killing a trophy bull elk in Pend Oreille County.

Charles I. Fraley, 27, of Ione has been charged by the county prosecutor with unlawful big game hunting in the second degree, according to District Court clerks.  Fraley's arrainment is set for Friday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m.

While the illegal killing of a bull other hunters dream a lifetime of tagging is upsetting, the interesting part of the story is the teamwork of three agencies to make the citation. 

According to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement report:

WDFW Officer Don Weatherman responded to a report of a trophy bull elk being shot with a rifle during the archery season near Ione. A Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Deputy already had a person of interest standing by to speak with Weatherman when he arrived on scene.

Weatherman interviewed the male subject, who had driven into the area where the 6x6 trophy elk had been shot. In the meantime, the Sheriff's Deputy and Border Patrol Agents, who were also on scene, went in search of shell casings in an area of interest and were successful in locating evidence critical to the case!

The Border Patrol Agents also assisted with the use of a tracking dog to backtrack the subject's activities away from his vehicle.

After interviewing the subject, the young male admitted to shooting the bull with his rifle, which was stashed in the woods after the elk was shot and before he returned to his vehicle. The subject then took officers to the rifle as well as the area where he had fired the deadly shot.

Charges have been filed.
 
All of the meat was salvaged and donated to the Ione Food Bank. 
WDFW Capt. Dan Rahn, who held off making any comment until charges were filed and a court date was set, said it's unusual for Wildlife agents, sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol to come together on a case.
 
“Usually we're all spread thin and scattered about,” he said. “But in this case all three agencies just happened to have personnel in the area at the right time.”

WDFW names new enforcement chief

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday announced that Steve Crown, a lieutenant in the (WDFW) Enforcement Program, had been promoted today to serve as the agency's Chief of enforcement.

The selection process has been kept low-key for months.

Crown is replacing Bruce Bjork, who is retiring after 43 years of state service, including 15 as the leader of the WDFW Enforcement Program.

Crown graduated from the University of Idaho and spent 11 years with the Wenatchee Police Department before joining WDFW in 2002. He was selected after a national recruitment and interview process and transitioned into his new role by working alongside Chief Bjork for the past month.

When I requested information about the selection on June 24, Mike Cenci, program deputy chief, responded:

“It is a public process………will provide info today.”

Not hearing back, I contacted Cenci again on July 22 after finding nothing online regarding the national search for a new chief.  Here's his reply:

Sorry Rich. I can't find a posting. I know that the agency solicited the Washington Assoc. of Sheriff's and Police Chiefs to conduct a nationwide search. They are down to a finalist, who will face a forum of labor and other agency personnel for a Q&A session. The appointment will occur depending on that outcome. If your interested in the minimum qualifications, I will dig.

I responded with a query for more information regarding the Q&A session Cenci mentioned and names of finalists, and got his final response:

I am not authorized to provide any detail yet, Rich. 

Here's the rest of the info from the WDFW media release issued Friday at 4 p.m. as most people were turning their attention to a holiday weekend:

“Steve brings a well-rounded law enforcement background to his new position, as well as a passion for the state's natural resources,” said WDFW Director Phil Anderson.  “The Enforcement Program plays a key role in helping the department achieve our mission and meet our legal responsibilities. I am confident Steve will maintain and enhance the consistent and professional approach that has been a hallmark of Chief Bjork's tenure.”

“Bruce Bjork is one of this state's most highly respected law enforcement leaders,” said Crown. “I am honored and excited to lead the Enforcement Program and to build upon his accomplishments.”

Under Bjork's leadership, WDFW made significant investments in cutting-edge law enforcement technology that increased officers' efficiency and improved their ability to apprehend violators. He also helped establish the department as a general authority police agency and was instrumental in the passage of legislation that increased penalties for egregious violations such as spree killing and poaching trophy-class big-game animals.  

Washington men arrested; international fish poaching ring suspected

FISHING — State Department of Fish and Wildlife agents say they’ve arrested two men with suspected ties to an international fish-poaching ring.

The Daily Herald newspaper reports that 38-year-old Igor Stepchuk, of Lynnwood, and Oleg Morozov, of Kent, sold an undercover agent more than $4,500 worth of poached salmon, steelhead and caviar. They’re expected to answer to the charges later this month in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Agents say the men are believed to be connected to a fish-poaching ring that was operating out of several other states. Earlier this year, eight men were indicted in Missouri on federal charges for poaching and trafficking in American paddlefish and their eggs. More than 100 other people were arrested or cited for their part in illegally selling Missouri paddlefish to national and international caviar markets.

Paddlefish roe is sometimes mislabeled as caviar from highly prized sturgeon, which has been on the decline.

Stepchuk is accused of selling the agent five jars of American paddlefish eggs for $500.

Detectives sent samples of the caviar and fish to the department’s molecular genetics laboratory to confirm the species. 

On a more local level, four Western Washington men recently were sentenced for illegally gillnetting 242 trout at Lake Lenore in central Washington. The market for their catch has not been determined.

Prosecutor: Lake Lenore case stands out, but poaching common

FISHING — The recently resolved Lake Lenore poaching case involving 242 fish illegally gillnetted by four Western Washington men, stood out for the jail time and fines handed down by the Grant County District Court.

However, poaching cases at the many scattered fishing lakes in central Washington are not uncommon.

Here are answers to a few followup questions I posed regarding the case to Patrick Schaff, the deputy prosecutor who worked on the case:

Do you know of any other illegal fishing cases of this magnitude occurring in Grant County?

“This seems to be the only Grant County case of this magnitude in the last several years. We see cases of similar character (i.e. late-night net poaching of rare or semi-rare fish) a couple of times a year, usually from Lake Lenore but occasionally from Banks Lake.  But those cases usually involve a couple dozen fish on average.  This case obviously stands out because of the large number of fish taken.”

Is there any information on what the defendants were planning to do with so many fish?

“We don’t know what the defendants intended to do with the fish, but they clearly took more than would be needed for a personal or family supply.” 

What is the citizenship of the four men involved in the Lenore illegal fishing case?

“I don’t know the citizenship status of the four men and I would not feel comfortable speculating.  Our office is prohibited by law from considering citizenship or national origin when choosing how to resolve cases.” 

A Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement captain offered more insight into the case.

Public put spotlight on Lake Lenore fish poachers

FISHING — Media attention and angler outrage may have factored into last week's successful prosecution of four Western Washington men who were caught on April 6 gillnetting 242 prized Lahontan cutthroat trout from Lake Lenore, a prized “quality fishery” south of Coulee City.

Grant County prosecutors, like prosecutors across the state, are chronically overbook with cases.  Fish and wildlife cases often are brushed aside to make time for priority cases in which people are the victims.

“Sportsmen's groups and the press did a great job following up and emphasizing the importance and severity of this case,” said Capt. Chris Anderson, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement supervisor in Ephrata. “The prosecutor's office responded and did a great job.”

Lake Lenore is managed as a selective fishery geared to catching large cutthroat trout.  Sport anglers at Lenore are limited to keeping no more than one fish a day.

Vitaliy Kachinskiy, 23, of Mount Vernon, Wash., and three Everett men: Sergey Otroda, 32, Igor Bigun, 26, and Oleg Pavlus, 25, pled guilty to gross misdemeanor charges, Grant County Prosecutor D. Angus Lee confirmed on Friday. 

Each man was sentenced to 20 days in jail, 40 days of electronic home monitoring and fines or costs totaling $4,100, he said.

In addition, the pickup being used at the time of their arrest was seized by the two Fish and Wildlife police who staked out the scene and managed to round up the fleeing poachers despite their attempts to escape in the darkness.

“They could appeal the forfeiture in Grant County Superior Court,” Anderson said. “But if the judge ruled that we followed the law in our arrest and seizing the vehicle, it would remain the property of the state.”   No appeal has yet been filed, he said.

WDFW has investigated other instances of illegal gillnetting for sportfish in Eastern Washington lakes involving ethnic groups.

Asked what the men were planning to do with all the fish they illegally netted at Lenore, Anderson said, “We do not have any direct knowledge that these Lenore fish were destined for a market, but we have heard in the past that they do sell the fish within the Russian community only.”

150 people in 16 states cited for wildlife trafficking

WILDLFIE — More than 150 people face federal and state charges after authorities disrupted online wildlife trafficking operations involving tiger, leopard and jaguar pelts, elephant ivory and live birds, the Associated Press reports.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the arrests Thursday after an undercover operation that included officers from 16 states — including Washington and Oregon — plus three federal agencies and three Asian countries.

Items seized under “Operation Wild Web” include the pelts of endangered big cats such as the Sumatran tiger, leopard and jaguar; live migratory birds such as the California scrub jay; whale teeth; elephant and walrus ivory; and a zebra pelt.

“Our message is clear and simple: The Internet is not an open marketplace for protected species,” said Edward Grace, deputy assistant director for law enforcement for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Working with counterparts in California, Texas, New York, Florida and Alaska and other states, federal officials targeted illegal wildlife sellers who operate through Craigslist, eBay and other Internet marketplaces and classified ads. Wildlife officers in Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia ran similar operations at the same time.

The items were seized last August, although charges are still being brought in many cases.

Six Southern California residents were charged Thursday with selling endangered species and animal parts, the US. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said.

“As a major platform for the illicit trade in wildlife, the Internet has become a dangerous place for animals,” said Jeff Flocken, North American regional director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, an advocacy group that worked with the federal task force.

“Wildlife crimes are not only harmful to endangered species, they also pose serious threats to national and global security,” Flocken said.

Illegal wildlife trade generates an estimated $19 billion a year worldwide and ranks fourth on the list of the most lucrative global illegal activities behind narcotics, counterfeiting and human trafficking, the animal welfare group said in a report last year.

Federal laws regulating the sale of wildlife include the Endangered Species Act; Migratory Bird Treaty Act; Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act; Marine Mammal Protection Act; and the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in wildlife, fish and plants that have been illegally taken, transported or sold.

Other states involved in “Operation Wild Web” were Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Disturbing video: canoeists kill swimming deer; investigation follows

POACHING — State wildlife agents are investigating after a video surfaced showing a group of people in a canoe killing a deer in the waters near Squaxin Island, in southwestern Puget Sound.

KOMO-TV reports the killing of the buck was captured on a 12-minute video, which shows a man swinging at the animal with an oar. The buck swims away but a couple minutes later, a paddler jumps into the water and attempts to drown the deer before another man dives in to assist.

The video ends with the deer being paddled to shore aboard the canoe.

Squaxin Island Tribal Council member Ray Peters says he was disturbed by the video, because that’s not how the tribe harvests deer.

No hunting season is open for deer.

Officials are still trying to identify some of the people in the video.

Officers seize trout, arrest suspected poachers

Washington Fish and Wildlife Officers Will Smith and Chris Busching pose with 242 Lahontan cutthroat trout, a gillnet and a 2005 Toyota pickup they seized from men who have been charged with illegal fish netting at Lake Lenore in the first week of April.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers arrested four suspected poachers in the early morning hours Saturday with 242 cutthroat trout caught in an illegal nighttime netting operation at a prized Grant County lake.

Lake Lenore – north of the communities of Ephrata and Soap Lake – is managed as a “quality fishery,” attracting anglers who want to use single barbless hooks and no bait to catch-and-release large fish. Anglers are allowed to keep no more than one fish a day from the lake. Read more. Rich Landers, SR

“The 242 fish were just one night’s catch,” Anderson said. “We’re not sure how many nights or weeks worth of fish they’ve taken out of the lake.”

What motivates poachers to do something like this?

Poachers caught with nets, 242 Lahontan cutts at Lake Lenore

UPDATED 11:41 a.m. with details of arrest from officer's incident report:

FISHING — Last night, a man at the Spokane Fly Fishers program asked me if I'd heard a fishing report from Lake Lenore.  I didn't have an answer for him, but I do today.

The fishing for large Lahontan cutthroat trout at the quality fishery is pretty darned good - IF YOU'RE POACHING with GILLNETS.

Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officers arrested four Western Washington men in the early hours of Saturday morning with 242 cutthroats seized in an illegal night-time netting operation at the prized Grant County lake.

The lake is managed as a “quality fishery,” attracting anglers who want to use single barbless hooks and no bait to catch-and-release large fish. Anglers are allowed to keep no more than one fish at day from Lenore.

Arrested were Vitaliy Kachinskiy, 23, of Mount Vernon and three Everett men: Sergey Otroda, 32, Igor Bigun, 26 and Oleg Pavlus, 25.

The Grant County prosecutor's office said today it has not yet begun processing the case.

“We have members of two ethnic groups involved with an annual thing of illegal netting that's causing great concern for our fish program,” said WDFW Capt. Chris Anderson in Ephrata.  “One group has been caught targeting mostly whitefish at Banks Lake and this group was targeting the big spawning cutthroats at Lenore. The 242 fish were just one night's catch. We're not sure how many nights or weeks worth of fish they've taken out of the lake.”

WDFW agents also nabbed two Spokane men from another ethnic group for similar illegal netting activity in January. One of the subjects threatened an arresting officer with retribution.

This is a huge bummer for fishermen. Not only do we deal with environmental issues that plague fish, but also with human pond scum that will do this to a fishery that means so much to anglers and the local economy.

Read on for the chilling details about the stake out and arrest. 

Poachers keep wildlife officers busy writing tickets

FISHING — Numerous lakes already are open for fishing, but a few folks apparently like the elbow room they find at waters that aren't officially open.

They kept Spokane Region Wildlife police  busy last week.   Here are a few excerpts from the regional enforcement weekly report:

Officer Snyder patrolled the Spokane River and lakes in the Medical Lake and Cheney areas.  Two groups of anglers were cited for fishing closed season at West Medical Lake

Officer Snyder checked anglers at Liberty Lake and arrested one on an outstanding warrant out of Lincoln County. 

Officer Spurbeck patrolled the Spokane River and contacted two subjects fishing closed waters.  The subjects were also using terminal gear and neither subject had a valid fishing license. 

Sergeant Charron responded to two fisherman fishing closed waters on Deep Lake. Suspects attempted to hide fishing gear but were unsuccessful. 

Officer Vance patrolled the Touchet and Tucannon Rivers. One angler was contacted as he was fishing directly at the base of the dam in Dayton on the Touchet River. He said he saw the no fishing signs and knew he was not allowed to fish there, but wanted to catch a steelhead the easy way. 

Rammell loses second appeal in elk poaching case

Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell has lost his second appeal over a 2010 elk poaching charge, with the Idaho Court of Appeals ruling unanimously that two lower courts correctly upheld Rammell’s misdemeanor conviction. He challenged it on multiple grounds, nearly all centering around his contention that the state didn’t prove he intended to unlawfully kill an elk in the Tex Creek Zone on Nov. 30, 2010. But the high court found that the offense requires no specific intent. “It only requires general intent, namely, that a person knowingly possessed an animal protected under the statute, not that he or she intended to commit a crime,” wrote Court of Appeals Judge David Gratton.

He added, “Rammell does not argue that he did not kill an elk in the wrong hunting zone. His argument rests on the fact that he thought he was allowed to kill an elk wherever he wanted during open season. As the state notes, Rammell’s argument is actually a defense of ignorance of the law. Ignorance of the law is not a valid defense. Regardless of whether Rammell intended to violate the law, he still had the intent to possess the elk.”

Rammell gained notoriety in the state after a herd of domestic elk at his eastern Idaho hunting ranch escaped in 2006, prompting then-Gov. Jim Risch to order the escaped animals shot to avoid spreading disease to the state’s wild elk herds. Rammell fought an extended but unsuccessful court battle over that incident, culminating in an Idaho Supreme Court decision against him in September. He also launched a political career out of it, running against Risch for the U.S. Senate in 2008 as an independent and getting 5 percent of the vote.

In 2010, Rammell ran for governor, losing to Gov. Butch Otter in a six-way primary but coming in second with 26 percent of the vote. Last year, he lost a GOP primary for the state Legislature in Idaho County, then announced he’d “given up on Idaho” and moved to Wyoming.

A jury convicted him on the elk poaching charge in June of 2011. His appeals challenged the jury instructions and rulings on evidence related to intent, but all were upheld. Representing himself in court, he also offered a novel argument to the Court of Appeals that the court lacked jurisdiction over him because it charged him as “Rex F. Rammell,” which he called “a false designation, his name being Rex Floyd Rammell.” That argument also was rejected.

Deer poacher soothes conscience with $6,000 donation

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Saying he’s been burdened with guilt, an anonymous man has mailed Washington wildlife officials $6,000 to compensate for deer he said he killed illegally – more than 40 years ago.

The man visited one of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department’s Eastern Washington offices a few weeks ago and confessed to an officer that he had killed three whitetail does illegally between 1967 and 1970, officials said Wednesday.

Penalties for poaching antlerless deer can range from $200 to $2,000, but the man’s crimes are well past the statute of limitations.

An officer told the man he could sign up with the agency for volunteer jobs to soothe his conscience, but the man said he lived out of the area.

Last week, a $6,000 check was delivered to the department’s Olympia Headquarters as a donation to the enforcement division, confirmed Mike Cenci, deputy chief.

“This doesn’t happen,” Cenci said. “We do get donations, but if any were related to misdeeds or conscience, we’re not aware of it.”

In a letter with the check, the man, identified only as Roy, wrote:

“My conscience has not allowed me to put this sin to rest until now. I know that God has forgiven me and hope that WDFW will as well.”

Cenci told Northwest Sportsman editor Andy Walgamott that he remains curious:

“I’d like to meet the man, frankly. We all repent in different ways…. I’d ask him, ‘What made you turn the corner?’”

Lincoln County deer masacre prompts $5,000 reward

POACHING — Up to $5,000 in rewards is being offered for a tip that leads to the conviction of the culprits in the latest spree poaching case in Eastern Washington.

Five white-tailed deer, including two bucks and three does, were discovered in the Grand Coulee area of Lincoln County on Saturday with only the backstrap and hindquarters removed. The deer were shot and left to rot just a few feet from each other, and appeared to be fairly fresh kills.

This is the sixth multiple-deer poaching incident documented in Eastern Washington this winter, including two incidents in Spokane County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is offering a reward of up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual(s) responsible for this spree killing and the Human Society of the United States has pledged another $2,500.

Information can be submitted anonymously:

1. Contact Officer Wood in Lincoln County, (509) 892-1001.
2. Call the state Poaching Hotline, (877) 933-9847.
3. Email the tip to reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov.
4. Text the information to TIP411 (847411).

Tips sought on deer poaching in Dalton Gardens

POACHING — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is seeking information on the illegal shooting of three deer within the boundaries of Dalton Gardens, a small community in Kootenai County just north of Coeur d’Alene. 

The incidents occurred between Thursday, February 7 and Saturday February 9.

A buck, a doe and a fawn whitetail deer were each found dead, each shot with a small caliber bullet.  The three carcasses were found at two different locations within Dalton Gardens.  The deer were all left to waste.

The deer season in northern Idaho is currently closed, so the shooting of a deer is a violation of state wildlife laws. 

Discharging a firearm within the city limits of Dalton Gardens is also illegal.

Anyone with information regarding these incidents should contact the Idaho Fish and Game Department at 769-1414; or, the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) hotline, at 1 800 632-5999. 

Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a CAP reward if the information provided leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible.

Spokane men jailed for illegal fish netting at Banks Lake

POACHING — Two Spokane men were arrested last week at Banks Lake after a nighttime patrol of five Washington Fish and Wildlfie police caught them illegally gillnetting about 50 whitefish.

Maxim Andriyenko, 28, and Vladimir Lebedinski, 33, both of Spokane, were booked into the Grant County Jail, according to a report by the Columbia Basin Herald. The other suspect was a 16-year-old boy. A 14-foot boat was seized.

Police said the men are likely part of a “poaching community.”  This is not news to anglers who frequent Banks and other regional lakes, but it's good news that some members of this “poaching community” are getting nailed.

The officers reported the suspects argued throughout the search, never admitting to any wrongdoing. Police said one suspect, a convicted felon, allegedly threatened to cut off the fingers of one officer.