A “sophisticated kind of criminal activity” that has likely been going on in Skagit County, Washington for several years has sparked a massive investigation.  At the core of the investigation lies the illegal killing of a pair of bull elk and a mountain lion.

“We ended up recovering one of the elk racks and the cougar hide, and seizing a truck and a bunch of equipment,” Sgt. Russ Mullins of Washington Fish & Wildlife told the Bellingham Herald.

On March 11th, a team of roughly 20 Fish and Wildlife officers served search warrants at multiple residences in northeast Washington state.  In addition to the antlers and hide, officers also recovered various GPS-enabled dog collars and photographic evidence of the crimes committed.

The state of Washington outlawed the use of dogs for hunting both black bears and mountain lions in 1996, and with the evidence collected, officials believe this was how the poachers acquired the large cat.

“The photo of the cougar shows the suspect actually at the location where they killed it and the dog in the photo off to the left a little bit. That’s pretty sound evidence of that violation,” Mullins said.
Considering the size of the investigation, Fish and Game officials are optimistic that the violators will soon be brought to justice, although the investigation remains ongoing.

“We were able to put together solid cases on people that have a prior history with Fish & Wildlife violations and that have been likely engaging in these sort of activities for many years,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit group … It was a sophisticated kind of criminal activity.”



H/T: Bellingham Herald