The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and the Hunters Heritage Council are offering nearly $2,000 in rewards for information leading to arrests and convictions in the recent slaughter of up to 16 elk in the Blue Mountains of southeast Washington.
Thirteen branch-antlered bull elk were poached in late October and early November and two more mature bull and two cow carcasses were just reported, according to Fish and Wildlife Officer Todd Vandivert of Dayton. In most cases, only antlers were taken.
Only one case has been solved. Charges of killing one six-antler-point bull during closed season and wastage of game were filed in Columbia County District Court against Jon Morton, 38, of Sumner.
Most of the dead elk were found in the Eckler Mountain, Jasper Mountain, and Skyline Road areas south of Dayton in Columbia County.
"These cases bring the total number of illegally-killed bull elk in the Blue Mountains over the last year to 40," Vandivert noted. "That's hurting the future health of our elk herds here and reducing hunting opportunity for legal hunters."
WDFW needs descriptions, names, vehicle license numbers, or other information to help the investigation. Information can be reported to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office at (509) 382-2518; WDFW's Eastern Regional Office in Spokane at (509) 456-4082, or WDFW's toll-free poaching reporting line at 1(800) 477-6224.
A big-game poaching conviction carries a minimum civil penalty of $6,000, up to $5,000 in fines, and up to a year in jail per count. Convicted violators also may be required to forfeit equipment used, including vehicles and guns, and lose hunting privileges.
To date, the Hunters Heritage Council has put up $1,200 in rewards for information that helps convict violators. The Hunters Heritage Council is a consortium of the Washington State Bowhunters, Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation, Citizens for Washington's Wildlife and Safari Club International chapters of Puget Sound, Northwest, Inland Empire and Central Washington.
WDFW's own reward fund provides at least $100 in rewards per violator charged; depending on the number of people involved, several hundred dollars could be available to informants. Hunters who provide violator information that leads to an arrest and conviction can also be eligible for "hunter preference points" for advantage in special hunting permit drawings.