Although penalties for the crime of poaching are minimal in Washington, the slaughter of a female elk and her four calves earlier this month has prompted a reward of $4,000 to identify the killer or killers.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife is investigating the killings they believe occurred Nov. 6 near Ellensburg, about two hours southeast of Seattle. The elk cow and her calves were found lined up as if they had been walking or running when they were shot. Some were shot multiple times.
The killings occurred in the same area where a beloved elk known as Bullwinkle was illegally killed late last year. Trophy hunter Tod Reichert is expected to stand trial next month for second-degree unlawful hunting of big game in Bullwinkle's death. Reichert hoped the trial would conclude before hunting season so he could use the hunting permit he purchased. Even if Reichert is found guilty, penalties for poaching are minimal.
A person is guilty of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree if the person:
- Hunts for, takes or possesses big game and does not have the required licenses, tags or permits; or
- Violates any department rule regarding seasons, bag or possession limits, closed areas including game reserves, closed times or any other rule governing the hunting, taking or possession of big game.
Unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree is a gross misdemeanor. Although a gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in jail, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both, when a person is convicted of poaching, his or her hunting licenses and tags are revoked and their hunting privileges are suspended for two years instead.
Under Washington's spree poaching law, anyone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours could be charged with unlawful hunting in the first degree, a Class C felony. A person is guilty of unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree if the person commits the act described for second degree, plus:
- The person hunts for, takes or possesses three or more big game animals within the same course of events; or
- The act occurs within five years of the date of a prior conviction of a similar crime.
Unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree is a Class C felony. Although a Class C felony is punishable by up to five years in prison, or a fine of up to $10,000, or both, when a person is convicted of poaching, his or her hunting licenses and tags are revoked and their hunting privileges are suspended for 10 years instead.
In addition, it is unlawful to allow hunted animals to go to waste. A person is guilty of waste of fish and wildlife if he or she takes or possesses wildlife classified as food fish, game fish, shellfish or game birds having a value of $250 or more, or wildlife classified as big game and recklessly allows such fish, shellfish or wildlife to be wasted. Waste of fish and wildlife is a gross misdemeanor.
Regardless of the circumstances of your arrest, if you are facing criminal charges in Washington state, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online.