Elk season is now jailing season - for poachers

Some misdemeanors are now felonies

 

September 14, 2023 | View PDF

A poacher will pay $75,000 in fines and serve jail time after killing numerous deer and elk near Pendleton in what officials called a wildlife crime spree.

Walker Erickson, 28, of Pendleton, pleaded guilty to 22 charges including illegally killing deer and elk, leaving game animals to waste, and trespassing. All charges accumulated in an 18-month timeframe, leading officials to declare the case a crime spree.

In the summer of 2020, OSP received a call to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line. OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers began gathering information and evidence, which led to a search warrant at Erickson’s residence in Dec. 2021. Troopers seized six sets of deer antlers, and three sets of elk antlers including those of a 7x7 trophy bull elk, a rifle, a bow, and meat. The investigation led Troopers to additional instances of poaching.

Sentencing included $15,000 for the 7X7 bull elk, $15,000 for a 6X5 bull elk, and $7,500 for a 4X4 mule deer buck. In addition, Erickson will serve 14 days in jail during elk hunting season for the next three years.

“Elk season is now jail season,” said Jay Hall, Wildlife Anti-Poaching Resources Prosecutor. Hall, who is an Assistant Attorney General with the Oregon Department of Justice, prosecuted the case on behalf of the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office. The Aug. 1 sentencing reflected Hall’s recommended punishment to fit the crime.

This case also reflects the first significant application of new sentencing guidelines established by the Oregon Legislature in 2018. HB 3035 created stiffer penalties and allowed prosecutors to elevate poaching crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony.

“All of this conduct, if it had occurred only a year before the legislature created these felony level poaching crimes, he would be facing only misdemeanor sentencing,” Hall said.

The $75,000 in fines is a full accounting of all of the game animals Erickson poached, including six deer, one 4x4 mule deer buck, and one 4x5 white-tailed buck. Walker has also poached eight Rocky Mountain elk including three trophies: one 4x4; one 5x6 and a very large 7x7 bull that would be the top trophy in any hunter’s collection, according to Hall.

In addition to fines and jail time, Erickson forfeited the rifle and bow he used to commit the crimes, and all trophies and game parts. That includes a freezer full of meat that the court ordered forfeited and directed OSP F&W Division to provide to the Blue Mountain Wildlife Center, for their raptor rehabilitation program.

Poaching impacts wildlife populations across the state and deprives Oregonians of enjoying the state’s natural resources, according to Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW Wildlife Division Manager.

“Poachers deprive all of us of experiencing Oregon’s natural resources,” Graham-Hudson said, “Poaching impacts wildlife that people seek out, whether for hunting, photography or just to see in the wild.”

Protect Oregon’s Wildlife- Turn In Poachers campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw agrees.

“Poaching poses a direct threat to Oregon’s precious fish and wildlife populations,” Shaw said, “In 2022 alone, nearly 5,000 animals were poached in Oregon – that we know of. We need all Oregonians to be our eyes and ears in the fields, forests, waterways, and beaches of Oregon.”

For more information on how to recognize and report poaching, and how poaching impacts Oregonian’s natural resources, visit the website at https://www.ProtectOregonsWildlife.com.

 

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