Washington Wildlife Police are better equipped to nail poachers in the Spokane Region this fall.
The Mule Deer Foundation donated three metal detectors totaling $1,452 to the agency. Officer JoLynn Beauchene opened the package as delighted as if it were Christmas morning.
“These are small, light, portable and more powerful than the old models,” she said as the tools were delivered. “Now we have more to go around (among the officers),”
Metal detectors are more valuable to wildlife cops than a lie detector.
“If somebody has a wild turkey out of season and says he hit it with a car, I can get a quick fix on whether he’s lying by detecting shot in the carcass,” Beauchene said.
The metal detectors are useful field tools for investigations to find arrows, bullet casings and other evidence to help make cases.
“When you’re out in the dark checking out a dead moose, the metal detector can help define whether the animal was killed by a bullet,” she said. The entry hole may be against the ground and a single officer may not be able to roll the carcass over alone, she said.
Finding a bullet or bullet fragments can help officers connect the projectile with the firearm from which it was shot.
Connecting a bullet to a rifle helped wildlife police make the case in court this year against an Omak County man who killed numerous trophy bucks in the Okanogan area in 2012 and 2013.
In April, Garret V.J. Elsberg pled guilty to eight counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game, seven counts of second-degree unlawful hunting, possession of a firearm, and one count of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game.
He was sentenced to five years in jail and more than $24,000 in fines.
“If the bullet is still in the animal, we can quickly detect whether a bowhunter is telling the truth or whether he jammed an arrow into a bullet hole (during an archery-only season),” she said.
Metal detectors help officers determine if a dead hawk or eagle was illegally shot with a firearm, she said.
A separate device helps them tell whether waterfowl are illegally hunted with lead shot rather than the required steel or other non-toxic shot materials.
Mule Deer Foundation representatives Mike Jones and Dan McKinley presented the metal detectors to the agency at the Spokane office.
While they were there, Beauchene mentioned that the mechanical deer decoy the foundation had donated several years ago had been shot so many times it was falling apart after being set out in stake-outs to bag poachers and road hunters.
“We’ll get you another one,” Jones said.
One is on order for the Spokane District as well as one for the Okanogan district, he confirmed this week.
“They cost around $1,800, that is if the department supplies the skin and antlers,” he said.
Unfortunately, that’s no problem.
The agency has a steady supply of deer parts from vehicle collisions or poaching cases, Beauchene said.
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