‘These Were Not Kids With BB Guns’

I know we are only 33 days into 2010, but I’m very, very sorely tempted to go ahead and award three Renton, Wash., men Northwest Sportsman magazine’s Jackasses of the Year award for their boneheaded decision to shoot … flickers.

Yeah, northern flickers, those songbirds with the white patch on their back, just a bit bigger than a robin, very pretty, protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state law.

“The excuse they gave is they were shooting them for food,” says Capt. Rich Mann of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife’s Enforcement Division in Yakima this morning.

“That’s a bogus excuse,” says Annie Morton at Audubon Washington in Seattle. “You are what you eat, and they eat lots of ants so they would be very acidic.”

The trio were allegedly caught in late January with 19 flickers and several other birds as well as expensive “high-tech” air rifles with “muzzle suppressors,” Mann says.

“These were not kids with BB guns,” Mann says.

He gave the rifles’ retail value at $1,500.

Officers just happened to be in the right spot — along the Yakima River near Union Gap — at the right time to catch them.

Mann says that day officers were actually going to run a plain-clothes patrol in response to complaints of illegal harvest of wild steelhead in the river. When they arrived on the scene they saw one of the three men about to enter the woods. They called a sergeant and “caught the guy in the act,” says Mann.

The other two initially stashed their guns and birds and denied they were hunting, but eventually retrieved the items, Mann says.

“They were basically hunting the Russian olive thickets,” he says. “They knew the patch very well — much better than a person on their first trip over.”

Officers interviewed the men to try and establish a commercial-sale angle — flicker tails are used in Native American regalia.¬† Last March, four men, including three from the Yakima Valley, were arrested as part of a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service investigation into the illegal killing and selling parts of flickers, golden and bald eagles as well as other birds of prey.

Mann says case reports will be forwarded to the Yakima County prosecutor in the next few weeks for charging.

News also came out today about five sea lions and seals shot and washed ashore dead in West Seattle. The National Marine Fisheries Service is investigating.

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