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WA: Photos incriminate hunter in bear baiting case

April 29, 2012

By Rich Landers, Spokesman.com

A Pierce County man built a picture-perfect case – against himself and others – to help prosecutors file charges on more than 40 counts involving baiting and killing black bears at his Okanogan County cabin.
 
Photographs seized from his motion-activated trail camera left little to the imagination of law enforcement officials.
 
“The photos show suspects putting the bait with their cabin in the background while others show the bears coming in to the bait,” said Sgt. James Brown, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department police officer in Okanogan County.
 
“This pulls together a case our officers have been working on since they started getting complaints about six years ago. The case report runs 300 pages.”
 
James Erickson, 52, of Eatonville, Wash., was arraigned last week on charges of using bait to lure bears, unlawful big-game hunting, unlawful transport, spotlighting and possession of stolen property among other things in the past two years. Several other friends or family members also are involved.
 
A statewide initiative banned bear baiting in 1996.
 
Fish and Wildlife police have evidence that Erickson had hauled restaurant scraps and salmon to his property in the Methow Valley’s Rendezvous area. Bears couldn’t resist coming in to the stinking food pile.
 
Brown said officers had received tips for years indicating Erickson welcomed Western Washington residents who used the cabin as a base for big-game violations.
 
“It was common knowledge among people who lived in the area that illegal hunting activity with bears and deer was going on out of that cabin,” Brown said. “We regularly got complaints.
 
“We even assigned an undercover officer who made contact with the suspects.
They would brag to him about some of their exploits.

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