OLYMPIA – A Thurston County man with previous felony convictions and a history of big-game poaching was arraigned today on multiple charges of illegal firearms possession and unlawfully possessing big game.
William Wilder, 65, was arraigned in Thurston County Superior Court on 11 counts of unlawful possession of a firearm in the second degree, which is a class C felony. The additional charge for unlawful possession of big game is a gross misdemeanor. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.
According to court records, Wilder has a history of felony convictions, including theft, welfare fraud and a felony hunting violation, said Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney.
If convicted of current charges, he could face up to five years in prison on each of the firearm charges, and one year on the gross misdemeanor, Toynbee said. Each of the felonies carries a fine of up to $10,000. He could also face a $2,000 civil penalty if convicted of the big-game violation.
Charges were filed by the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office earlier this month following a deer-poaching investigation conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) enforcement officers last October.
In the past, WDFW has removed illegally hunted deer and elk from Wilder’s residence, resulting in a revocation of his hunting privileges, said Mike Cenci, deputy chief of WDFW’s enforcement program.
“As a convicted felon he’s not allowed to own or possess firearms and because his hunting privileges were revoked, he’s definitely not allowed to hunt,” Cenci said.
Acting on a citizen tip that Wilder was hunting illegally, WDFW enforcement officers searched his residence and seized Wilder’s vehicle along with 11 firearms and hunting equipment, which were forfeited to the state. During the investigation officers also confiscated a dead deer they found on the premises.
Cenci commended the citizen who reported the poaching activity.
“One of our priorities is to stop the worst offenders and protect the state’s natural resources,” he said. “It’s encouraging that members of the community will step forward to help us ensure sustainable fish and wildlife populations.”
Cenci asks that anyone who witnesses poaching violations to call WDFW’s toll-free Poaching Hotline at 1-877-933-9847. The identity of those reporting violations is kept confidential.