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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS > 2007

2 Silvana, WA, men arrested in bear-hunting case

Last updated August 14, 2007 7:03 a.m. PT

2 Silvana, WA, men arrested in bear-hunting case
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

VERLOT, Wash. -- Deep in the woods as the sun set, state Fish & Wildlife officers Julie Cook and Jennifer Maurstad tracked down their quarry: illegal hunters.

One man was up a tree on a hunting stand. Another man was about 50 yards away.

The pair, both from Silvana and in their 40s, were arrested for allegedly bear-bait hunting.

The illegal hunters were literally sniffed out by the officers by the smell of rancid oil deep in the woods. The discovery of corn, oats and barley confirmed to the officers that there were hunters illegally using bait to lure black bears.

Cook has been a wildlife agent for 16 years. She said it's highly unusual to catch poachers and their stands up in a tree. Typically, tracking illegal hunters can take state law enforcement agents weeks, even months.

"It was really satisfying and exciting to catch them in only a week," she said.

The men who were arrested on Friday evening were taken into custody without incident.

The officers seized the men's hunting bows, an oil can filled with oats and grease, and the pair's Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.

There was a sticker on the back of the truck cab advertising PETA: "People Eating Tasty Animals."

In bait hunting, animals are lured to an area with food, then ambushed by hunters. Bear bait typically is sweet and high in fat. Illegal hunters use doughnuts to lure bears.

Bear-bait hunting is illegal in all but 10 states, Cook said.

"Bear baiting is egregiously unsporting and inhumane and violators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law," Andrew Page, spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, told The Herald of Everett.

Beat-bait hunting has been outlawed in Washington since 1996.

Cook said bait hunting can put people at risk because it can acclimate bears to human food and once a bear becomes used to the taste, it continues to seek it out. Typically, the bear then needs to be killed.

Cook said if bears start showing up at campgrounds and are aggressive, they are dangerous to humans.

Since Aug. 1, state game officers have been looking for bait hunters east of Granite Falls on the Mountain Loop Highway.

"It's bear season, and we've had complaints about bait hunters in the past," Cook said.

About a week ago, Cook saw evidence not far from Coal Lake Road.

Every morning and evening, Cook patrolled the area looking for signs of hunters. On Friday, a pickup truck was parked at a trailhead. Cook and Maurstad set out for their catch.

But tracking armed hunters deep in the woods is dangerous, Cook said. "We're out in the middle of nowhere with no backup," she said.

The armed officers quietly approached and then started making lots of noise, so the hunters didn't mistake them for an animal. "Police!" they shouted.

The men told officers they hadn't taken a bear, but the evidence suggested otherwise, Cook said. The officers discovered a wheelbarrow smeared with blood, and in the truck's bed, the windpipe from a slain animal. The men said they had hauled an animal for another hunter.

Cook said the men knew what they were doing was wrong, but they had the opportunity and were going to take it.

Bear-bait hunting is a gross misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and thousands of dollars in fines, Fish & Wildlife Sgt. Randy Lambert said.

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Information from: The Herald


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