Community asked to help catch poachers

 

Last updated 7/11/2023 at 10:07am

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A poaching case involving elk in Dry Canyon remains open.

Sisters resident Steve Hagan is an avid hunter. He counts himself fortunate to have spent 43 years in a row hunting with his dad. He's passionate about hunting and has dedicated countless hours supporting it. Since 2021, he's been the Turn-in-Poachers (TIP) coordinator for the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA). He's also the OHA President for Oregon.

When Hagan became the TIP coordinator, he inherited an egregious poaching case that took place in Dry Canyon three months before. Dry Canyon is just east of Sisters and is part of the winter grazing area for mule deer. The bull, cow and spike elk discovered in October of 2020 were shot in a way described as a "thrill kill." Although bull elk were in season at the time, the poacher only took the head, antlers and some shoulder meat. It's a crime to leave carcasses to waste even if it's legal to kill the animal.

The Dry Canyon case has a $10,000 reward for information resulting in a citation or conviction. Most of the money came from hunting organizations, but a non-hunting person also donated $2,500 to the reward because they were so upset about the senseless loss of life.

The OHA established the TIP reward as an incentive for people to report suspicious activity. The fund pays cash for reports leading to citations or arrests. TIP rewards apply for illegal taking of fish and game mammals. Hagan says it's important for people to know that poaching is not hunting, it's stealing.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) grants hunter preference points as an incentive for them to report poaching which leads to a citation or arrest. Hunters can apply those points to any legal Oregon hunting opportunity. Cash rewards and hunter preference points generally go to the first credible report of an incident. In some cases, they may be awarded to more than one individual. It's also possible to report anonymously.

So far, no one has come forward about the three elk found in Dry Canyon. But Hagan isn't giving up and will keep the $10,000 award available for credible information about the case. Hagan says that poaching takes more animals than legal hunting. Statistics from 2021 show the deer population is going down.

According to ODFW Stop Poaching Campaign Coordinator Yvonne Shaw, only a fraction of poaching is detected.

"In a recent study by Boone and Crockett, researchers estimate that less than 5 percent of poaching in Kentucky is detected. We believe Oregon has similar numbers," she said.

The ODFW website describes poaching as the illegal take of birds, wildlife, and fish. It also covers habitat destruction. Poaching steals natural resources from all Oregonians. Poaching wildlife and damaging habitats impact present and future generations of wildlife, impacts communities and the economy, and creates enforcement challenges.

To have a bigger impact on poaching, law enforcement needs the help of private citizens. Not every case is solved, but cash rewards can help as well as preference points for the hunting community. For hunters having a better chance to get a tag via earning preference points, can make the difference between someone getting to go on a hunt or not.

Hagan said turning in someone doesn't have to lead to a conviction.

"TIP rewards are based on getting evidence that results in a citation. Sometimes it's hearing someone bragging at the bar, or people who post something on social media," said Hagan.

The purpose of the Stop Poaching Campaign is to educate the public on how to recognize and report poaching. The campaign is a collaboration among hunters, conservationists, landowners and recreationists.

"Our goal is to increase reporting of wildlife crimes through the TIP Line, increase detection by increasing the number of Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Troopers and increase prosecution," said Shaw.

When asked how the anti-poaching campaign is going, Shaw said it's going well and has a robust stakeholder group.

"Poaching happens when people aren't looking," she said. "It's hard to tell why a person poaches and what prevents them from poaching. When an officer is present in an area there is less poaching. The Stop Poaching Campaign paid for four additional troopers and one Sergeant spread across Oregon. Because of the large areas they have to patrol, they are reliant on reports from the public. They can't be everywhere all the time. That's the strength of the campaign. We're teaching people how to be good witnesses and how to take the next step and report it. We encourage people to first be safe. If they can safely do so, pay attention to what the suspects look like, their vehicle type, and get a photo if you can, but first and foremost be safe."

For more information about the anti-poaching campaign and rewards for turning in poachers visit the ODFW webpage at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/stop-poaching or dial 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP or *677 from a mobile phone. Or email [email protected] between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Contact the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division by visiting their TIP page at https://www.oregon.gov/osp/programs/fw/Pages/tip.aspx.

 

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