A poacher from Pendelton, Oregon will pay $75,000 in fines and serve jail time over the next three elk seasons after pleading guilty to a “wildlife crime spree” that spanned the course of 18 months, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a press release. Twenty-eight-year-old Walter Erickson pled guilty to 22 charges that included trespassing, illegally killing deer and elk, and leaving some of the game animals to waste out in the field. His sentencing is part of a creative anti-poaching campaign in the Beaver State that was initiated by a recent bill in the Oregon legislature.
“Elk season is now jail season,” said Oregon Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General Jay Hall, who prosecuted the case. The sentence was handed down by the Umatilla County District Attorney’s office on August 1.
According to the press release, which was recently shared by Northwest Sportsmen, ODFW investigators began monitoring Erickson back in 2020 after they received information about his elicit activities via the state’s Turn In Poachers (TIP) line. During a search of his residence in December 2021, troopers seized six sets of deer antlers, and three sets of elk antlers—including those of a 7×7 trophy bull elk. They also confiscated a rifle, a bow, and a freezer full of game meat.
Erickson was fined a combined $30,000 for the elk that he poached and an additional $7,500 for a 4X4 mulie buck. The remaining fines stemmed from an illegally-taken 9-point whitetail, and four other deer, the ODFW said. His three stints in jail will coincide with he state’s fall elk season and last 14 days each.
Thanks to HB3035, an anti-poaching measure that passed the Oregon House in 2018, Erickson slough of wildlife-related crimes were elevated from misdemeanor to felony charges. “[Had] all of this conduct occurred only a year before, before the legislature created these felony level poaching crimes, he would be facing only misdemeanor sentencing,” Hall said.
Poaching is a big problem in Oregon. In 2022 alone, nearly 5,000 poached game animals were reported to the ODFW. The actual tally is probably much higher, as untold numbers of poaching incidents go unreported each year. “Poaching poses a direct threat to Oregon’s precious fish and wildlife populations,” said Oregon Turn In Poachers campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw. “We need all Oregonians to be our eyes and ears in the fields, forests, waterways, and beaches of Oregon.”