‘Shocking Level Of Poaching’ In Central OR

Stunning news out of Central Oregon: Nearly as many mule deer are poached as are taken lawfully.

“If we look at the illegal take, it’s basically equal to the legal take — it’s bad,”  Michelle Dennehy, an Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman told Richard Cockle in a front-page article in today’s Oregonian.

He reports that’s part of what turned up out of a half-decade-long study of mule deer from Bend south.

ODFW discovered the intensity of poaching while monitoring 500 radio-collared deer from mid-2005 to this past January. Poachers killed 19, 21 were taken by legal hunters.

“We saw something similar with elk,” says Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Division deputy chief Mike Cenci pointing to a dated study put together by now-retired Olympic Peninsula wildlife manager Jack Smith.

Another 51 mule deer died of unknown causes, according to the article. Cockle points out that cougars, bears and Highway 97 all take their toll too and changing habitat hurts the deer population, but Eastern Oregon’s herd has been on a downward trend since the turn of the millenium.

What makes it all the more staggering is that poachers prefer does, Cockle reports.

No does, no fawns. No fawns, no bucks or more does, no mule deer recovery.

Calling poachers the “great unknown predator,” he offers several reasons why they may do so — money, meat, anger at the state or license fees — and he interviews an unidentified retired businessman about why he has poached.

“”It was a habit that was hard to break,” the man tells him; another reportedly said during trial, “Some people do cocaine. Hunting is my drug.”

Cockle quotes Mule Deer Foundation regional director Ken Hand as saying that the crime “is out of hand in Oregon. It’s going on all over the state, 365 days a year. From all the contacts I have around the state, I just hear about it constantly.”

Maybe it’s my position as an editor/reporter for a regional fishing and hunting magazine, but I’d echo that.

“We investigate poaching 12 months out of the year,” adds WDFW’s Cenci. “Our guys are running their asses off.”

The trouble seems to peak during fall’s hunts.

“Given the response this season, a lot of deer died that shouldn’t have,” he says.

During a recent spate of activity in Southwest Washington, officers put out a deer decoy and not 10 minutes later, it was shot, Cenci says.

Officers nabbed the suspect and paid a visit to his house.

“Had it been an actual deer, it would have been the sixth in a week,” he alleges.

Cenci can’t say for certain whether poaching is on the rise or hunters and the general public are just fed up with it and calling in tips more.

“But I can say confidently that spree, or thrill, killing — guys whacking animals in a single night — is. We’re seeing more of that and that’s pretty frustrating. That’s not a frustrated sportsman. I’m talking hardcore poaching. These are people who often have serious criminal records,” he says.

A recent case in Pennsylvania highlights the problem: A felon allegedly caught spotlighting deer at Gettysburg shot game warden four times David Grove, killing him.



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