A two-year investigation has finally resulted in served warrants in one of the most brazen poaching cases in the Pacific Northwest in recent years. According to wildlife officials in both Oregon and Washington, 10 individuals have been under investigation for the illegal killing of hundreds of animals including deer, bears, mountain lions, bobcats, and elk.
As part of the investigation, officials strategically placed trail cameras in areas where the suspected poaching was a regular occurrence after finding the discarded bodies of buck deer.
“We’re digging through the evidence and trying to capture it all in a way so that someone can digest this massive amount of information that we’re going to be presenting,” said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of westside enforcement operations for the Washington Department Fish and Wildlife told The Reflector.
“It’s safe to say Southwest Washington,” said Cenci. “I don’t want to inadvertently leave a county out, but we know where the lion’s share of the poaching happened.”
With reports surfacing of video footage featuring one of the accused poachers of bragging about killing four bears in one day while allowing a pack of hounds tear at the freshly killed carcass are leading officials to believe that the amount of disrespect these individuals have for wildlife is staggering.
According to Cenci, this type of poacher falls into the category he labels as ‘hardcore’-those with very little respect for the role of wildlife management, the animals on the landscape and the laws in place to protect them.
Citing a staffing shortage, Cenci also noted that monitoring this type of activity along with the plethora of other responsibilities that fall on the shoulders of wildlife officials, can be challenging for the department.
“I think far more of this is happening than we’ve been aware of, but you don’t know if you don’t go. Again, there’s a lot of landscape out there and you know these guys obviously have killed a lot of animals right underneath our noses,” said Cenci.
“Our officers were pretty frustrated when they saw some of the areas where the poaching occurred and they thought they had somehow failed the public. In reality, we failed them. We need more of a presence. You just can’t do it all unless you want to sleep out in the woods 24/7.”