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March 19, 2003
Contact: Craig Bartlett, (360) 902-2259

Hunters' tips bring poaching charges in Pierce County

OLYMPIA - Two brothers from eastern Pierce County were charged today with a series of elk poaching violations after concerned hunters contacted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to report the brothers' activities.

Joseph Ralph Peterson, 42, of Graham, and Michael John Peterson, 57, of Puyallup, were each charged with six separate hunting violations after fellow hunters reported that the two brothers had taken three elk out of season Jan. 18 near Elbe.

Together, the six charges filed today in Pierce County District Court carry a maximum fine of $30,000 plus wildlife-restitution costs of $6,000. In addition, the two men could face up to a year in jail for each of the three elk killed illegally.

After being tipped off to the illegal kill by other hunters, WDFW Enforcement Officer Dustin Prater said he staked out the site the next morning to see if anyone would return for the elk carcasses that had been left behind. Shortly thereafter, he said, the Peterson brothers arrived to process the meat.

"We can make a strong case when we catch people in the act," Prater said. "When it comes to stopping poachers, it really helps when concerned hunters and other citizens let us know when they see or hear of illegal activities taking place."

To report poaching or other illegal activities, people can call the WDFW Emergency Hotline at 1-800-477-6224.

Charges filed against the Peterson brothers include hunting and possessing elk out of season, hunting without a valid permit, taking more elk than allowed under the limit, failing to tag the dead elk and leaving them in a field without properly attending to them.

Joseph Peterson was also charged with illegally keeping wildlife in captivity, after a Canada goose was found in a cage during a search of his property. That charge carries a maximum penalty of $1,000.