Latest from The Spokesman-Review
ENDANGERED SPECIES — A trail-cam image of a pair of gray wolves in the Methow Valley is raising the possibility that the Lookout Pack may be regrouping — and possibly reproducing.
The wolves (above) were photographed in April by a motion-activated camera put out by the U.S. Forest Service southwest of Twisp.
Several sightings of the pair have been reported to the Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department, offering the possibility the pair may have mated and the Lookout Pack is rebuilding.
Poaching and other possible causes reduced the Lookout Pack from 10 wolves in 2008 to two or possibly three animals.
Three members of a Twisp family, whose ranch borders the area inhabited by the Lookout Pack, pleaded guilty in April to charges related to killing endangered wolves and attempting to smuggle a wolf hide to Canada.
Their fines total more than $70,000
The the photographed pair are a breeding male and female, pups could be born in early May.
“Without radio-collared animals, our next best chance of finding out more will be when the pups are old enough to leave the den and start responding to howling solicitations – probably not until mid-June,” Scott Fitkin, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist, told the Methow Valley News.
Elsewhere in Washington
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is trying to document whether wolves confirmed in about five new areas of the state have formed new packs.
WDFW biologists currently are attempting to trap and fix radio collars on wolves in the “wedge” area between the Columbia and Kettle rivers in northeast Washington.
Officials say that operation likely will move next to the Hozomeen area in northwest WA.
Efforts to put collars on wolves in the Touchet River area of the Blue Mountains likely won't begin until later this spring or early summer, officials say.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — About 100 motion-activated cameras scattered across an 8,600-acre Montana mountainside ranch are documenting a wealth of wildlife activity, including images confirming that Western spotted skunks — rare in Montana — have found a home about 10 miles south of Missoula.
The cameras, some of which transmit wirelessly to a ranch video specialist, are pretty good at documenting poachers, too.
It's not she wasn't observant. Moose are relative newcomers to the region, showing up roughly with the first big waves of Californians.
Washington's moose population has been slowly growing since the first confirmed moose sighting was made in Pend Oreille County in the early '50's. Wildlife research pegged about 60 moose in the northeast corner of the state in the early '70s.
The first moose hunting season was authorized in 1977 with just three permits, all for the northeast portion of Pend Oreille County.
This year, 150 moose hunting permits are being offered for a moose population estimated at more than 1,000 — although that estimate appears to have been made before the wolves gained a foothold in northeastern Washington in recent years.
Since the 90s, moose have spread into Stevens and Spokane counties and beyond, where they've been showing up in towns, in school yards, in swimming pools on a hot day. A few people have been charged by moose. Some have had the misfortune of colliding with moose on area roads. Heck, one calf fell through a window into the basement bedroom of a home in north Spokane.
They've only been common for a couple of decades, but nowadays everybody in this area has a moose story.
SPOKANE— Two brothers suspected of illegally killing a cow moose with archery gear on the north side of Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley around April 10 have been identified from the search warrant served in the case by Washington Fish and Wildlife Police.
Donald Gilbrech and San Gilbrech will be charged with several counts pending the results of DNA testing on the 95 pounds of moose meat seized from the men, Spokane officers said, without referring to the suspects by name.
Also confiscated was deer meat and Don Gilbrech's SUV, which contained moose hair and blood, the case report said.
A limited number of coveted special permits are required for hunting moose in Washington and the seasons are held in late summer and fall.
Fish and Wildlife Department officials say tips from the public helped officers make the case against the Gilbrechs.
An animal welfare group had offered a $2,500 reward for tips that lead to a conviction in the case.
Officers said a worker near Beacon Hill had seen a cow moose in the area. Circling birds later prompted the informant to check out the area, where a moose head, guts and hide were found.
A bow and arrow matching the arrowhead found on scene were seized at San Gilbrech's house, officers said.
Each man faces fines of about $5,000 if convicted on the various possible charges for killing the moose and deer, officers said.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — Three members of a Methow Valley family who raised havoc with the Lookout Pack, the first re-population of wolves discovered in Washington, were fined a total of more than $73,000 in plea agreements entered in Spokane federal court.
Some conservation groups are making headlines saying they think those penalties weren't enough, arguing the family members should get jail time.
Maybe, maybe not.
But perhaps the Seattle PI online gives us a perspective on how these issues are viewed on Western Washington. There's nothing particularly wrong with the story, but the headline caught my attention:
What do you think?
Is accurate to suggest a family that's had to pay $73,000 in fines and restitution is "getting off with probation?"
POACHING — An anonymous informant could soon be $2,500 richer after leading wildlife agents to moose poachers.
At least two suspects are being investigated for illegally killing a cow moose on the north side of Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley around April 10.
Washington Fish and Wildlife police report they have confiscated 95 packages of moose meat and the archery equipment used in the moose poaching.
Under a search warrant, officers also seized the vehicle they suspect was used for transporting the moose off the popular recreation area east of Esmeralda Golf Course.
Formal charges are pending results of DNA testing on the meat, said Madonna Luers, the agency’s spokeswoman in Spokane.
An anonymous tip led officers to the evidence, she said.
If the suspects are convicted, the informant is eligible for a $2,500 reward offered by a national animal welfare group.
POACHING — A cow moose was illegally killed Monday night on Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley, Washington Fish and Wildlife police say.
The poachers killed the animal using archery equipment on the north side of the mountain above Valley Springs road.
The animal was butchered on the spot, leaving little more than the two front feet and head behind.
Tire tracks indicate a small vehicle was used, possibly a small four-wheel drive, said Officer Dave Spurbeck. A landowner heard a vehicle leaving the area around 2 a.m. Tuesday.
Officers have few other clues and welcome any information that might help solve the case.
- Call the investigators directly: Officer Paul Mosman, 710-5707, or Spurbeck, 993-3997. You can remain anonymous and still be elligible for a reward.
Beacon Hill, which holds several communications towers, is the prominent mountain just north of the Spokane River and just east of Esmeralda Golf Course. It's popular with mountain biker and hikers.
This web page details how poaching tips in any case can be provided anonymously by phone, email or text message. Rewards are offered.
Otherwise call (877) 933-9847 anywhere in the state.
To reach the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokane Region Office during work hours, call (509) 892 1001.
HUNTING – A veterinarian accused of poaching an elk in North Idaho has filed a federal lawsuit against state wildlife officials.
The Bonner County Daily Bee reports Roland Hall is accusing the Idaho Department of Fish and Game of civil rights violations, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, malicious prosecution and slander.
He filed a lawsuit earlier this week in U.S. District Court seeking an unspecified amount of damages. Hall previously filed a tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, indicating he would seek $500,000 in damages.
Hall says the state agency pressed to prosecute him on a felony poaching charge, which stemmed from a 2009 hunting trip. Although the charges were dropped, Hall claims the case was filed because of a vendetta against him over a long-standing dispute involving a lead and silver mine he co-owns.
POACHING — Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are seeking help in identifying who was responsible for poaching a bull elk near the intersection of Bunco and Nunn Roads.
The elk was killed sometime between 9:30 p.m. on Sunday (Dec 4) and 6:30 a.m. on Monday (Dec. 5). The culprits removed the head and much of the meat from the carcass, which was killed in a private field just off the Bunco Road.
Anyone with information regarding this crime can contact:
- Citizens Against Poaching Hotline at (800) 632-5999.
- IDFG Regional Office at (208) 769-1414.
- or their local Conservation Officer.
Callers may be eligible for a monetary reward, and may remain anonymous.
HUNTING/POACHING — Three Australians on a North Ameican hunting trip have been sent packing, but not before Idaho officials fined them thousands of dollars for elk poaching and told the bad apples they could never return to hunt in Idaho and virtually anywhere else in the United States.
All three paid thousands of dollars in fines and restitution in an Elmore County courtwhile forfeiting two hunting rifles before the long plane trip back home.
Read on for the details from Idaho Fish and Game.
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.
POACHING — A 64-year-old Idaho North Idaho man has agreed to pay more than $13,000 in restitution and fines and will lose his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life for illegally obtaining a Montana hunting license and killing a trophy bighorn sheep in north-central Montana, the Associated Press reports.
Roger J. Woodworth of Hayden, Idaho, was sentenced Nov. 6 by District Judge Nels Swandal as part of a plea agreement with Fergus County prosecutors, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.
FWP officials say Woodworth illegally bought a Montana resident hunting license in 2009, then applied and was drawn in the lottery for a bighorn license in the Missouri River Breaks north of Lewistown, where he shot the ram.
A tip led to the charges against Woodworth, who was required to give up the bighorn sheep trophy mount.
HUNTING ENFORCEMENT — "I patrolled nearly 2000 miles of back roads during October and encountered fewer elk hunters and far fewer elk camps than in the recent past," said Jerry Hugo, Idaho Fish and Game Department conservation officer in North Idaho. "Panhandle resident elk camps far outpaced non-resident elk hunting camps this fall."
But there's been no shortage of poachers, officers say.
Tips are being sought to help nab whomever killed two moose shot and wasted near Cataldo around Oct. 29.
District Officers operated several bull and cow elk decoys during closed seasons in an effort to enforce our current Panhandle big-game regulations.
"I saw and heard from hunters that they were seeing LOTS and LOTS of moose," Hugo said. "Moose are definitely enjoying the abundance of the new found forage in Unit 6 and are not as vulnerable to severe winter weather conditions as elk and deer are. But the roads make moose far more vulnerable to poachers.
Some hunters might think they're a cut above a poacher by putting out salt licks in Idaho to lure big game. While that's legal in some states, it's illegal in Idaho.
"District Officers found several more salt licks this fall," Hugo said. "Officers are gathering the locations of every salt lick that we find and we are saving the GPS coordinates. It is unlawful and unfair chase to hunt elk over any form of salt.
"Idaho Geologists assure us that there are NO naturally occurring salt licks in north Idaho. We are currently devising ways to catch these poachers on site."
POACHING – Idaho Department of Fish and Game officials are seeking tips to help them nab poachers involved in killing two bull moose on or around Oct. 29. The bulls were killed within 25 yards of each other in French Gulch near Frost Peak in the Cataldo area.
The poacher or poachers took only the hind quarters of one moose. The remainder of the usable meat from this illegally taken moose was wasted. The entire second moose was left and wasted. Both were field dressed and the carcasses propped open as if the perpetrators were planning to return to retrieve more meat.
Anyone with information should call:
- Officer Mark Bowen, (208) 660-4655, or
- Idaho Fish and Game office in Coeur d'Alene, (208)769-1414, or
- Citizens Against Poaching hotline, (208) 632-5999.
Callers may remain anonymous and are eligible to receive a cash reward.
POACHING — An Island City, Oregon father and son were arrested last week by Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division troopers following an investigation into the unlawful taking of two bull elk in the Wenaha Wildlife Management Unit in northeast Oregon.
The Wenaha Unit is considered a premier controlled branch antler bull elk hunting unit for which only 20 tags are issued during archery season. This is a very difficult tag to obtain, and for most hunters it may be a once-in-a-lifetime hunting opportunity.
Read on for details from an Oregon State Police press release via Northwest Sportsman Magazine:
POACHING — Jeremy M. Hill, 33, of Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, has been charged for killing a grizzly bear, U.S. Attorney Wendy J. Olson announced today.
The information filed today in United States District Court alleges that on May 8, 2011, Hill shot and killed a grizzly bear that was on his property in Bonner’s Ferry. The grizzly bear is classified as a threatened species in the Lower 48 states, according to the Endangered Species Act of 1975, and protected by federal law.
The charge of killing a threatened species is punishable by up to one year in prison, a maximum fine of $50,000, and up to one year of supervised release.
The case was investigated by the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (AP) — An eastern Idaho jury has convicted former gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell of illegally shooting and killing a cow elk. The Post Register reports that the jury of six people deliberated about an hour on Friday before finding Rammell guilty of misdemeanor unlawful possession of wildlife. Magistrate Judge Stephen Clark suspended Rammell's hunting license for two years and ordered him to serve 180 days in jail, with all but five days of the jail sentence suspended. Clark also ordered Rammell to pay a $250 process fee as well as $1,500 in fines, suspending $500 of the fines. Rammell says he didn't get a fair trial and will appeal. Because of the appeal, Rammell's jail sentence was stayed. Idaho officials say Rammell was in illegal possession of an elk on Dec. 8.
Former Idaho gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell's continuing saga got even wackier yesterday, when he called a press conference outside the Bonneville County Courthouse, saying he wanted to "discuss the Felony Jury Tampering charges he now faces, in addition to the Misdemeanor for illegally possessing wildlife." His press release was headed, "Rex Rammell Felony Charge." His event was interrupted as officers showed up, cuffed him and arrested him; Rammell said he had intended to turn himself in. "They're treating me like a criminal," he says in video of the incident on KPVI-TV. "This is unnecessary - I'm a good citizen. … All I was doing was trying to inform the jury of their rights." You can see the video here from KPVI, which includes a handcuffed Rammell trying to answer questions from the press as deputies try to load him into a squad car.
Here's Rammell's latest press release: "At 11 AM I arrived at the Bonneville County Courthouse to hold a press conference. County deputies were obviously waiting for me, because three of them were on me lack a pack of dogs on a rabbit. They were very physical. They forcefully handcuffed me and hurried me away from the Courthouse, despite my objections. TV 6 and 8 filmed the entire episode. I posted bond and am scheduled for a preliminary examination, July 6, 1:30."
The felony charge in question is jury tampering, for handing out fliers to jurors who were about to hear the case against Rammell for poaching an elk in November.
ENDANGERED SPECIES —A federal grand jury has indicted a Twisp, Wash., man for illegally killing two wolves near his property and trying to ship one of the pelts to Canada.
After Tom D. White shot the wolves, his father told a Canadian tanner that he had “a really big coyote” skin for processing, according to the indictment.
The indictment lists Tom White; his father, William D. White; and Tom White’s wife, Erin J. White, who is accused of using a false name to try to ship the package containing the wolf pelt to Alberta in December, 2008.
Read more from today's S-R story by Becky Kramer.
The Methow Valley News broke the story about the alleged killing of the Endangered Species Act-listed animals this morning.
Here's the story from the Seattle Times.
More deails and background recently was posted by Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
Here's the latest Rex Rammell news, via the Idaho Falls Post Register and the Associated Press: A state judge has delayed the poaching trial of former gubernatorial candidate Rex Rammell to investigate if Rammell broke another law when he handed out leaflets to potential jurors in the case as they were entering the courthouse, offering them advice it said "judges may not tell you." Really. Click below for the full report.
POACHING — While Washington legislators continue to butt heads on many issues in Olympia, they joined in refreshing unanimity last week to drop the hammer on people who go wild slaughtering big game.
Both the House and Senate voted unanimously for HB 1340, which expands the definition of unlawful hunting in the first degree — a class C felony.
Under current law, offenders must have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.
Once Gov. Chris Gregoire signs the bill — everyone expects her to join the unanimous vote — someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged on the spot in the first degree.
“I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately,” WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci told Northwest Sportsman Magazine.
Cenci used a KIRO 7 TV report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.
POACHING — Jason Locke, 37, of Kennewick has pleaded guilty to poaching a bull elk and using his wife's special hunting license illegally, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.
Locke was fined a total of $11,345, including a $6,000 criminal wildlife assessment penalty for taking a trophy-size bull elk.
Two other men – David E. Myles, 50, of Richland, and Brian E. Badgwell, 40, of Pomeroy were charged for helping transport the illegal game.
Locke is also facing poaching charges in Chelan County, and allegations that he guided Columbia River steelhead trips without a commercial license.
Washington Fish and Wildlife police were able to make the case thanks to tips from a concerned citizen.
Read on for more details on this case.
HUNTING — Trophy white-tailed deer are highly valued in Ohio, and they have laws to prove it.
A good case in point came out of the courts this week as an Ohio man was ordered to pay $23,816 in restitution under a 2008 law for illegally taking a trophy buck.
James Alspaugh, 39, also paid $400 in fines for shooting off a roadway and going on private land without permission, plus court costs. He must spend a couple days in the slammer and will lose his hunting rights in 36 states for a couple of years.
But it's the restitution for the trophy buck that stands out. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife says the non-typical trophy deer, scored according to Boone & Crockett guidelines, netted an impressive 218 7/8 points.
POACHING – Turning in a poacher in Washington can be rich experience, thanks to a commitment announced minutes ago by Conservation Northwest.
The Bellingham-based group says it’s partnering with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to boost the reward for people who help Fish and Wildlife police solve cases that involve the illegal killing of rare wildlife.
The reward is being increased from $500 to as much as $7,500 for information that leads to the conviction of anyone who has killed a gray wolf in Washington, and up to $5,000 if a protected grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx or fisher were killed.
The state currently is investigating at least two wolf poaching cases.
In addition, several Oregon groups have pooled funds to offer a $10,000 reward for information that would solve the case of a wolf killed illegally along the Oregon-Washington border in the Blue Mountains.
The fund Conservation Northwest has pledged also will pay up to $3,000 for “egregious violations involving deer or elk, such as spree killing,” said Mitch Friedman, the group's executive director.
Read on for more details.
WILDLIFE ABUSE — The sentence: Just five months in jail for the man investigators say call the most prolific wildlife spree killer in Washington state history.
Cody Stearns of Western Washington was caught in an interview by KIRO TV as he left the courthouse last week after being convicted on five counts of poaching. Fish and Wildlife officers said they believe the man has killed more than a hundred animals and that the actual total could be much higher.
Even though he denied killing ANY animals, the KIRO website also includes a slideshow with graphic scenes sampling the evidence that piled up against Stearns.
SANDPOINT, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho State Police trooper accused of shooting a moose in Bonner County before the start of last fall's hunting season has been charged with misdemeanor poaching.
Latah County Prosecutor Bill Thompson says he filed a misdemeanor charge because Cpl. Jeff Jayne has agreed to plead guilty. Jayne has said he incorrectly memorized the dates for the start of hunting season.
A plea agreement calls for a $500 fine, six months of unsupervised probation and the revocation of Jayne's hunting and fishing privileges for two years.
OLYMPIA — A bill has been introduced in the Washington Legislature that would, among other things, give loons and trumpeter swans some clout against a poacher's bank acount.
When a Newport-area man senselessly killed a common loon at Yocum Lake a few years ago, Washington Fish and Wildlife authorities could do little more than write him a ticket for just under $300.
Senate Bill 5201 would increase the fine to $2,000 for killing a loon, ferruginous hawk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon; tundra swan or trumpeter swan.
WILDLIFE COPS — Patrolling for illegal snowmobilers in caribou country, tracking down the source of sick farm-raised Idaho elk dumped in Washington, dealing with moose in yards and haystacks — all in a week's work for Washington Fish and Wildlife Department enforcement officers on the far East Side of the state.
Read on for highlights.
WILDLIFE — Last week I shared a photo of a wild turkey feeding and gettng along somehow in North Spokane, even though it had been skewered with an arrow by a less-than-worthy archer.
Today we get an even grimmer report from Billings, where wildlife photographers have documented at least five ducks at the Montana city’s Riverfront Park have been hit with arrow-like blowgun darts.
Blowgun makers say darts can be fired up to 400 feet per second from 6-foot blowguns, some equipped with laser sights.
Bill Pirami gave The Billings Gazette a photo showing a 6-inch, stainless-steel blowgun dart sticking through the duck’s head.
A Parks official says shooting isn’t allowed at the park, and that blowguns are not an authorized hunting weapon.
WILDLIFE CRIMES — Two Yakama Nation tribal members have been sentenced to six months in federal prison for killing and selling more than 100 bald and golden eagles.
Alfred L. Hawk and William R. Wahsise, both in their 20s, pleaded guilty to taking, selling or transporting eagles. They were sentenced Friday in federal court in Yakima.
Prosecutors say they killed more than 100 eagles around the reservation.
The Yakima Herald-Republic reports the poverty-stricken men relied on subsistence hunting, but they are now barred from possessing guns.