Newly obtained case files and criminal charges show the extent of a poaching case in Washington and Oregon where dozens of bears, elk and bobcats were killed for the thrill of it.
KIRO 7 News reported in September that as many as 23 people possibly took part in the poaching ring breaking virtually every hunting law and regulation in Washington and Oregon. The suspects' photos of them gloating over their kills were used against as evidence by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Seven people — six adults, some of whom have previously been targeted in poaching investigations, and one juvenile — have been charged so far.
Documents from the Skamania County clerk show at least five of those suspects are collectively facing 189 charges related to illegal hunting with aid of dogs, unlawful hunting of big game, and wasting fish and wildlife.
Here are the suspects named in Skamania County case summaries:
• Joseph Dills, 64 charges
• Bryan Tretiak, 10 charges
• Eddy Dills, 26 charges
• Erick Martin, 28 charges
• William Haynes, 61 counts
Joseph and Eddy Dills were scheduled for arraignment hearings earlier this month.
Investigators said they linked the suspected ring through text messages and cellphone records allegedly showing the group coordinating illegal kills, which authorities say began in 2015.
Their alleged killing sprees focused on areas near Skamania County, where Gifford Pinchot National Forest is located, and near The Dalles in Oregon.
Here’s what some of the video and images documented:
• Cougar chased up a tree by hounds before being shot and killed.
• Several bears treed by dogs, then shot and killed.
• Elk killed in areas where hunting was not permitted.
• A bobcat, along with deer, and elk shot illegally before being beheaded to take antlers and skulls as trophies.
• Bones discovered months later in areas animals were killed.
Investigators said the suspected poachers often left the carcasses of the slaughtered animals behind to rot in the woods. Additionally, the suspects shot animals in places where it was not allowed or the suspects did not have correct permits, according to WDFW.
And in at least one case, the suspected poachers’ dogs were also apparently injured.
WDFW obtained one a series of text messages in their investigation. Authorities said this one was sent from a suspect to his girlfriend.
“I'm done hunting already. I killed a huge bear about 400 pounds this morning about two feet from the ground. Now we are headed to Joe’s to drop the dogs off except for Jip and Stormy. Jip has about a 10-inch gash on her back leg and [Stormy’s] stiches pulled out so we're headed to get them fixed.”
Phone photos and videos dated back to August 2015, show bears illegally killed and hound hunting activity. Investigators said they were able to identify specific areas the suspected poachers went to over the last two years by photo-embedded GPS coordinates.
Here’s how the investigation began:
The investigation began with Oregon State Police troopers who were looking into poaching in The Dalles, charging papers filed in Skamania County Superior Court say.
Last December, the troopers contacted and interviewed two Longview, Washington, men, Haynes and Martin, who, the troopers said, confessed to illegally killing deer in Oregon and bringing their heads and antlers back to Washington.
The troopers contacted authorities in Washington, who recovered 27 deer heads and a bull elk unlawfully possessed by Haynes and a co-defendant, the charging papers say.
In executing search warrants for the suspects’ cellphones, the documents say, investigators found pictures, text messages and videos linking several other people to the poaching.
“The bears really suffered the brunt of this,” Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Brad Rhoden said. “They were just killed and left.”
More charges are expected in both Oregon and Washington state.
The Associated Press contributed to this report .
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