Spree Poacher Bill Sent To Guv

A tip of the cap to the Washington Legislature. Every single state Representative and Senator voted for a bill that stiffens penalties for big-game spree killers.

HB 1340 flew through the lower chamber on a 97-0 vote (with one member excused), and yesterday cleared the upper, 49-0.

“It’s looking good,” said WDFW Deputy Chief of Enforcement Mike Cenci. “It should be off to the governor’s office soon. And I’m sure we’ll have a number of times to apply it this year, unfortunately.”

Basically, 1340 expands what can be considered unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony. Previously, offenders had to have a previous wildlife misdemeanor within the past five years to get hit with that charge.

But now someone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged straight away in the first degree.

Cenci used a KIRO 7 report on convicted poacher James Cody Stearns, “The Headhunter,” to educate lawmakers on the need to pass the bill.

SCREEN SHOT FROM KIRO 7 SHOWING JAMES CODY STEARNS.

“I think some lawmakers were surprised that that kind of thing was occurring,” he says. “I think they were all offended by it, and I think the vote in both houses demonstrates that.”

The 20-year-old Hoquiam man — labeled the “poster child” for spree killings in this state —  is now serving a five-month sentence in the Grays Harbor County jail after pleading guilty in district court last November to five misdemeanors of illegally killing five deer. That after finishing up a 10-month sentence last April for other wildlife offenses.

He’s also suspected of killing more than 100 animals illegally.

Stearns’ license has been revoked for life. Others found guilty of unlawful hunting in the first degree have their license suspended for 10 years.

Several other young miscreants have been busted in other mass poachings over the past year or so. Recent cases include:

four deer slain alongside I-82 in one go last December

four elk killed in Pacific County last November

four bucks killed in western Walla Walla County over two nights last summer by a local boy.

six bucks wasted in Southeast Washington over five weeks last winter, including four trophy-caliber animals, by two local boys.

“As the state becomes more populated, opportunities aren’t what they once were. Concerned citizens will be glad to know that offenders will be punished,” Cenci says.

He anticipates that Governor Gregoire will sign the bill. If she does, it will go into effect 90 days after the close of the legislative session.

The bill is cosponsored by Representatives Joel Kretz, Jim McCune, Norm Johnson and Judy Warnick, all Republicans.

Meanwhile, the front page of the latest newsletter from the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division illustrates that “poaching occurs with more than just big game.”

When discussing or reading the word “poaching,” some people may picture large bulls, bucks, bear, or big horn sheep taken illegally; however, poaching involves hunting and/or angling for, killing, and/or taking any wildlife illegally—no matter how small the creature is. Troopers routinely investigate incidents that involve suspects taking and/or attempting to take game birds, protected species, cougar, shellfish, furbearers, and fish illegally. When caught, violators may lose more than the wildlife taken. The following are various poaching cases troopers investigated in February:

Sr. Tpr. Niehus (Klamath Falls) watched through a spotting scope as a subject hunted geese near the Klamath Wildlife Area. After a short period of time, the subject appeared to have reached his daily bag limit of white-fronted geese. Niehus called Sgt. Hand (Klamath Falls) to assist. He proceeded to watch the subject continue to shoot geese as Hand worked his way closer to the subject. Hand snuck to within 100 yards of the subject when he encountered a ditch that prevented further progress. He maintained surveillance on the subject while Niehus made contact. Once contacted, Niehus discovered the subject shot a total of 13 white-fronted geese, nine over the daily bag limit. Niehus cited the subject for Exceeding the Daily Bag Limit of Geese and seized his shotgun and nine geese.

(OSP)

Sr. Tpr. Guerra (Tillamook) was working clammers on Netarts Bay when he contacted a subject clamming there. Upon inspection of the subject’s clams, Guerra found the subject was 21 clams over his daily bag limit. He seized the clams and returned them to the bay and cited the subject for Exceeding the Daily Bag limit of Bay Clams.

Sr. Tpr. Duncan (Baker City) contacted some subjects near Austin Junction within the Sumpter Unit who recently treed and killed a cougar using dogs. Duncan cited one subject for Taking Cougar Prohibited Method—Use of Dogs and Hunting without a Valid License and another subject for Aiding in a Wildlife Violation—Taking Cougar Prohibited Method—Use of Dogs. Tpr. Ritter (John Day) and Sr. Tpr. McNeil (Baker City) assisted Duncan with the investigation.

Tpr. Freitag (Salem) responded to a trespass complaint on Windsor Island. Upon arrival, he located two subjects goose hunting. The subjects had also driven an ATV across the island past No Trespassing signs. While watching the subjects, Freitag observed one of them shoot at a flock of seagulls that flew overhead. Freitag cited both subjects for Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another and one subject for Hunting Protected Species—Seagull and seized both subjects’ shotguns.

Sr. Tpr. Collom (Central Point) watched four anglers fishing the mouth of the hatchery outflow, a closed area. Several steelhead were spawning just up from the mouth in the closed area, creating temptation for some. Two subjects were targeting the spawning steelhead in a snagging-type method using lures, and the other two legally fished in the open area. Collom did not note any fish caught in the 1 1/2 hours he watched them. When contacted, the subjects stated that four other anglers were snagging steelhead earlier, so they shooed them off. When Collom advised them he observed them snagging, the subjects admitted to fishing in the closed area and trying to snag. Collom cited both anglers for Angling Prohibited Area—Outflow and warned them for Attempting to Snag.

Bend and Gilchrist Division troopers executed a search warrant in Silver Lake as the result of Sr. Tpr. Hayes’ (Bend) investigation into the illegal take of bobcats using prohibited methods. Troopers photographed a suspect tending to an illegal bobcat trap set and later identified the suspect. Troopers interviewed the main suspect who admitted to killing the cats in April 2010. While conducting the search, another subject arrived at the scene and Sr. Tpr. Bean (Gilchrist) interviewed this subject. The troopers located evidence involving illegal trapping and taking of bobcats during a closed season from that subject as well. The troopers cited the main suspect for Taking Bobcat Prohibited Method, Borrowing a Bobcat Record Card, and Aiding in a Game Violation and the other subject for Taking Bobcat Closed Season x 3 and seized 10 pelts and numerous instruments and weapons.

(OSP)

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