11 charged with wildlife crimes in Wasco County

SEATTLE (AP) – Prosecutors in Oregon have filed more than a hundred charges in an investigation of wildlife poaching that has spanned state lines and allegedly left dozens of animals shot illegally and sometimes left to rot. The Wasco County District Attorney’s office charged 11 people with misdemeanor wildlife crimes in that county Tuesday. Some of those charged in Oregon are also being prosecuted in Washington state for allegedly killing bears, deer, elk or bobcats illegally.

Members of the loose network often filmed or photographed their hunts, capturing gruesome scenes, including some in Washington that showed hunting dogs gnawing on dead or wounded bears. In some hunts, the alleged poachers left their prey to waste, collecting little meat or hide, investigators said. Officials in both states have said the case is among the largest and most complex they’ve ever investigated, but still have not pinpointed any specific motives of the alleged poachers, other than to kill for thrill.

The case began in November 2016, when Oregon State Patrol officers set up game cameras on national forest land near The Dalles. The motion-triggered cameras captured images of people in a truck shining a spotlight into the woods, then exiting the vehicle with rifles and head lamps, according to Washington officers’ investigative reports. The Oregon troopers later found a headless deer near the location where the truck had been photographed.

A few days later, the troopers recognized the truck and pulled it over. Cellphones seized from the suspects, which contained photos and videos of hunts as well as text messages, ultimately led Washington officers to more than 20 kill sites in Southwest Washington and several more suspects. Eight people were initially charged last fall in Skamania County with more than 190 counts of wildlife violations, including 33 felonies. More charges have been filed in other Washington counties since.