Poachers accused of killng elk, deer, then tried to cover it up

An elk lies in a wooded exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo.  Two men in Oregon were fined after being accused of poaching an elk and a deer.

An elk lies in a wooded exhibit at the Woodland Park Zoo. Two men in Oregon were fined after being accused of poaching an elk and a deer.

AP

Two people accused of poaching a bull elk and deer in Oregon were ordered to pay $16,000 in fines and restitution after a suspicious photo circulated on social media, the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife said.

Lionardo Munoz, was ordered to pay $15,000 after being accused of killing a bull elk, the agency said in a release. Matt Wilkinson was ordered to pay $1,000 after being accused of helping to conceal the crime, the release said.

An investigation revealed that Wilkinson’s wife, Rachel Hallett, also poached a buck, according to the news release. The three individuals, all from Mosier, also face the penalties of bench probation, forfeiture of the animals’ meat and heads, and hunting suspensions, the agency said.

The poaching was first brought to authorities’ attention on Nov. 9, 2021, when a hunter texted a picture of the elk to wildlife officials, the release said. The photo was circulating on social media, and something seemed off about it, the release said.

Trooper Brent Oskey saw the photo and said the elk seemed suspiciously large. He called the hunter who texted the photo and determined the name of another hunter who may have killed the elk, the release.

Munoz wasn’t at home when investigators went to investigate. But as his truck turned down the drive, they saw the bull elk’s head and hide inside, the release said.

Munoz had a tag identifying the elk as a spike, but it appeared to be an oversized elk instead, officials said. Munoza told them the elk belonged to a friend of his, Wilkinson.

Wilkinson told authorities that his wife was the one who shot the animal, the release said.

As authorities continued to investigate, they found three more deer carcasses near the Wilkinson’s residence.

The results of their sentencing hearings:

  • Wilkinson “pleaded guilty to Unlawful Take of a Six-Point Bull Elk and Unlawful Take of a Buck Deer.” He was put on bench probation for 12 months, must do 40 hours of community service, had his hunting license suspended for 5 years and was fined $1,000.
  • Munoz “pleaded guilty to Unlawful Take of a Six Point Bull Elk.” He got 18 months of bench probation, had his license suspended for 3 years and was fined $15,000.
  • Hallett “pleaded guilty to Unlawful Take of Buck Deer.” She got 12 months of bench probation, a suspended license for 3 years and 40 hours of community service.
  • All three had to forfeit the seized wildlife, hunting licenses and tags.

“Not only did the subjects steal a wildlife resource that belongs to all Oregonians, but they broke hunting safety laws while doing so,” Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW Wildlife Administrator, said in the release. “Hopefully fines like this will serve as a warning to others who would behave so irresponsibly.”

In Oregon, poaching is defined as “the illegal take of birds, wildlife and fish,” as well as habitat destruction, the agency said on its website. Elk and deer are both animals that are frequently illegally killed by poachers, and the state awards hunters who report the poaching of those animals with “preference points,” which boost their odds of getting to hunt in the area of ​​their choice in the future, the Statesman Journal reported.

Vandana Ravikumar is a McClatchy Real-Time reporter. She grew up in northern Nevada and studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University. Previously, she reported for USA Today, The Dallas Morning News, and Arizona PBS.

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