By Kyle Swenson | The Washington Post
It started when state officials wanted answers about the headless deer turning up in the Oregon wilderness east of Mount Hood.
“Nearly every year, it seems we have deer showing up minus their heads at the end of seasons,” Craig Gunderson, a senior trooper with the Oregon State Patrol, recently explained to the Seattle Times. Authorities believed the mutilated animals might be the work of poachers, so in November 2016 they fixed motion-triggered cameras in the national forest near The Dalles, Oregon, smack on the Washington state line.
The footage troopers caught would prove to be the first clue to uncovering what officials now say was a loosely-linked poaching ring responsible for the illegal brutal slaughter of hundreds of animals in Washington and Oregon. The sheer size of the animal body count involved has shocked wildlife officials, in part because of the wantonness driving the rampant killing.
Start your day with the news you need from the Bay Area and beyond.
Sign up for our new Morning Report weekday newsletter.
“It was kind of a demented social club,” an Oregon official told the Times.
“I consider it a killing spree,” a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife chief told Fox 12. “I’m completely disgusted.”
“It’s one of the biggest cases, if not the biggest case I’ve been involved with, and Washington has the same stance, based on the number of people involved and the number of illegally taken animals,” Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division Lieutenant Tim Schwartz explained to KOIN 6.
In the end, it was not just the camera footage from the forest that helped investigators unravel the ring, but the pictures and videos saved on the suspects’ own cellphones. According to the Times, investigators found dozens of images detailing the poachers work, including videos of pack dogs running down and gnawing on bears, the poaches posing with the dead carcasses of elk, and even the hunter’s splattered in the blood of recent kills. Between the two states, 17 people have been charged with more than 200 misdemeanors and felonies. None of the accused have publicly commented on the charges.
“Most people, when they kill an animal, there’s respect for everything. They take the hide, they take the meat and there’s something that’s respectful about it,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Captain Jeff Wickersham explained to FOX 12. “In this case, it’s all about …read more
Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World