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OR: Lifetime hunting ban, jail for poacher who killed four bull elk

January 13, 2010

Lifetime hunting ban, jail for poacher who killed four bull elk

The man who pulled the trigger got jail time and a lifetime hunting license suspension. And five others also pleaded guilty to multiple violations earlier this month in Lane County Circuit court in connection with an October poaching incident near Cottage Grove in which four bull elk were shot dead.

Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division troopers began an investigation after the carcasses were discovered on Oct. 20 in the Melrose Wildlife Management Unit south of Cottage Grove.
 
The elk — bulls with three-point, five-point, six-point antlers and one with six points on one side, seven on the other— had been killed late in the morning on private property south of London Road. Troopers managed to salvage the meat, which was taken to the Eugene Mission.

Elk hunting was closed at the time of the shootings.
 
Immediately following the incident, Senior troopers Martin Maher and Marshall Maher talked to nearby landowners who reported the shooters trespassing to retrieve the poached bull elk that were part of a year-round herd.

The shooter, John K. Atwater, 50, of from Cottage Grove, was being helped by his son and four others in retrieving the elk by trespassing onto several different pieces of private property.
Some of the elk were removed after they drove their vehicles onto the property where the elk were killed.

During court appearances in late December and early January, the six men, all from the Cottage Grover or Creswell areas, pleaded guilty to several charges related to the poaching incident.

Atwater pled guilty to four counts of illegally killing bull elk, two counts of Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another (trespass), two counts of borrowing a big game tag.

He was sentenced to: 40 days in the Lane County Jail, 24 months probation, pay $6,000 in restitution to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and a $6,674 fine, forfeit his rifle and have hunting privileges suspended for the rest of his life.

His son, Dustin Atwater, 26, pled guilty to aiding in a game violation and second-degree criminat trespass. He was sentenced to: 15 days in the Lane County Jail, 18 months probation, pay $1,500 in restitution to Fish and Wildlife and an $892 fine and lost his hunting license for 48 months.

David Pruitt, 78, pled guilty to: Aiding in game violation, loaning a big game tag and criminal trespass while hunting. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, pay $1,500 in restitution to Fish and Wildlife and a $2,304 fine, complete 100 hours of community service and have his hunting license suspended for 36 month hunting license suspension.

Homer Rhodes, 74, pled guilty to two counts of aiding in game violation and loaning a big game tag. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, pay $1,500 in restitution to Fish and Wildlife and complete 60 hours of community service

Christopher Stevens, 35, pled guilty to aiding in game violation. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to Fish and Wildlife and a $1,202 fine, complete 160 hours of community service and have his hunting license suspended for 36 months.

Bryan Shepard, age not given, pled guilty to aiding in a game violation and was sentenced to 24 months probation, complete 100 hours of community service and have his hunting license suspended for 24 months.

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