More ‘Robust’ Reward Offered For High-Profile WA Poaching Cases

WDFW’s poaching reward got a huge bump today thanks to a Bellingham wildlife group.

Currently, the agency provides up to $500 for information that helps solve illegal kills, but with funding from Conservation Northwest, the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife will now be able to offer up to $3,000 for info that leads to a conviction of anyone involved in the “egregious” killing of deer and elk in the state, $7,500 for gray wolves and $5,000 for grizzly bears, wolverines, lynx and fisher.

“It gives us the ability to offer high rewards for investigations of joint interest,” says Mike Cenci, WDFW’s Enforcement Division deputy chief.

The announcement comes two weeks after word surfaced about the skinned carcass of a wolf that was found in the North Cascades in fall 2009 — possibly the fourth poached wolf in the state in the past few years. And it comes just a day after passage of House Bill 1340, which would significantly increases penalties for spree killings of wildlife, out of the House on a 97-0 vote. It now proceeds to the Senate.

Conservation Northwest says the partnership with WDFW is intended to help officers in identifying and investigating instances of illegal killing of rare wildlife and other extreme cases of big game and other wildlife killings. A grizzly bear in Pend Oreille County was poached in 2007 by two men who mistook it for a black bear and then buried it on a family farm in the Moses Lake area.

“Our wildlife enforcement community provides an invaluable service,” says Mitch Friedman, the organization’s executive director and a North-central Washington big game hunter. “They’re out on the front lines patrolling huge areas to protect wildlife, and they deserve our support.”

Cenci thanked the group and believes the more “robust” funding “will help us do our job of putting poachers behind bars and keeping Washington’s wildlife safe for everyone to enjoy.”

He says WDFW has received targeted reward donations in the past, but said Conservation Northwest’s funding represents “a longer-term commitment.”

“I don’t think we’ve been able to offer these kind of amounts in other cases,” he says.

According to WDFW’s Web site, around $8,000 in reward money is paid out annually. Reporters also receive bonus points for special permit drawings; the agency says about 90 hunters get points a year.

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