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Rich Landers: Poachers look for free gifts

Even though it’s the season of giving, there’s no shortage of greedy poachers out there taking more than their share.

Normally there’s a little downturn in poaching activity during the holidays as game hogs roast chestnuts over open fires and fatten up on Christmas cookies.

“But for some reason we’re seeing a real uptick in cases throughout the region this year,” said Capt. Mike Whorton, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department regional enforcement officer. “We getting calls constantly.”

Numerous cases involving illegal shooting of deer and elk are being processed this week, and the stellar trout fishing at Lake Roosevelt has proved too tempting to men who think the five-fish daily limit is meant for less important people.

Without going into the appearances they must make in court to bring poachers to justice, here’s a cherry-picked sampling of other cases and duties area enforcement officers have been dealing with just last week.

While patrolling near Horseshoe Lake, Officer Paul Mosman was delivered a rare slam-dunk case.

“He pulled in behind a likely looking truck parked at an access gate and just happened to notice a man nearby quickly toss a turkey carcass into the wood line before walking down to greet the officer,” reported Whorton.

“Mosman utilized his years of training and experience to deduce this might be a clue to follow up on.

“After a few minutes of license checks and discussion about archery deer hunting, Officer Mosman made his way up to the turkey and found not one but four steaming hot turkeys in various stages of field dressing. One of the men ultimately confessed to shooting all four.

“His excuse was that he only meant to poach one (and then go into town to buy a turkey tag) and had been surprised when four birds started flopping around after he shot.”

He was cited on several counts and his shotgun was seized.

In Garfield County, Officer Jim Nelson responded to a bird hunter who slipped and fell, discharging his shotgun into his left leg. The subject suffered severe trauma. He was rushed to Lewiston by ambulance and then by chopper to Spokane.

When a burglary in progress was reported in Newport, the closest officers were from Washington Fish and Wildlife and the Colville National Forest. They caught and held the two culprits until local sheriff’s deputies arrived.

A whole cow elk, two heads, and a boned-out elk carcass dumped near Newman Lake caught the attention of Officer Mosman. All the elk appear to have come from a captive game farm in Idaho.

Mosman will be following up to see why Idaho farmers would take the time to dump their dead elk in Washington. State veterinarians are concerned about introducing pathogens from game-farm animals to wild elk.

Reports of a bear carcass dumped east of Colville prompted Officer Don Weatherman to investigate what turned out to be remains of a domestic cow.

Officer Ron Cram finished his patrolling for the late archery deer season by making a case on an illegal cougar kill in Stevens County.

A steelhead angler checked by Officer Brendan Vance in Asotin County forgot his license in his vehicle. Unfortunately for him, when he returned to the car with the officer he realized he’d also left his marijuana pipe out in plain view next to his license.

A class of 35 students at Shadle Park High School was treated before the holiday break to a program regarding wildlife and wildlife enforcement by Sgt. Dan Rahn.

A moose paid a price for being tamed by the ill-advised practice of people feeding it. Cram investigated an incident on Flat Creek Road in which an archer-Christmas tree hunter shot Mickey the Moose – the name locals gave to it – with an arrow to protect his two small children.

“He was unaware of the tame moose being turned loose in the area and thought they were being charged rather than the moose wanting a handout and petting,” Whorton said. The extent of the moose’s injury was not known.

A deer stuck in a fence in Spokane County was cut loose and freed by Officer Lennie Hahn.

An elk damage complaint involving 43 elk nibbling at haystacks in Pend Oreille County was tended by Officer Severin Erickson, who offered advice on installing electric fence.

Another crop damage complaint didn’t go so smoothly for Officer Curt Wood, who responded to a Lincoln County landowner complaining about deer damaging his haystacks.

“The subject requested landowner (hunting) access permits, but Wood learned that he does not allow any hunters on his property,” Whorton said. “Wood advised the rancher that we would not be able to help him with permits or money because of his not allowing public hunting on his property.

“The rancher was less than happy and vowed to contact his local senators and congressmen regarding the state law,” Whorton said.

So there’s at least one case that isn’t closed.

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