Hunters who were part of a poaching ring in the Pacific Northwest shot dozens of animals, let rabid dogs attack their prey, and left the carcasses to rot in the forest, prosecutors allege.
Eleven people were charged with over 100 counts of misdemeanor wildlife crimes by the Wasco County District Attorney’s Office in Oregon on Tuesday. The poachers range in age from 17 to 59 and face prosecution for a number of alleged violations, including using dogs to hunt bears, hunting with an artificial light, and unlawfully taking deer, according to court documents.
The charges come months after Skamania County prosecutors in Washington charged eight people with 191 criminal counts for their involvement in the poaching ring, as The Seattle Times previously reported.
Tim Schwartz, a lieutenant at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency that investigated the ring, said he found the wildlife massacre deeply “disturbing.”
“I’m not sure the intent, but there are several factors, like social media and spurring each other on,” Schwartz told The Daily Beast. “Someone just out for the thrill and the kill,” he added.
Evidence of the killing spree dates back to August 2015—when the group began coordinating their illegal hunts, according to local reports. Investigators first learned about the ring in November 2016, Schwartz said, calling it the “biggest case” Oregon has ever seen.
According to a court filing, prosecutors charged the following hunters this week: Aubri Nicole McKenna, Aaron Colby Hanson, Joseph Allen Dills, Aaron Brian Hendricks, David R. McLeskey, Kimberly Kathrin Crape, William Jarred Haynes, Erik Christian Martin, Eddy Alvin Dills,Wyatt Keith, and Sierra Dills.
Many of the alleged poachers took photos and videos of their excursions that were eventually obtained by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. A picture of Haynes from 2015 shows his face and shirt splattered with blood from a bear he shot, The Seattle Times reported. Haynes told authorities he used the skin of one bear to make a rug.
Photos and screenshots of videos also show dogs tearing into dead bears, hunters posing with dead bobcats, and bears hiding in trees in an apparent attempt to escape the hunters. A November 2015 picture, also published by The Seattle Times, shows Eddy Alvin Dills standing over a dead elk, looking at the camera with his mouth agape.
Craig Gunderson, a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife trooper, said the agency has evidence linking the troupe to the killings of seven bobcats, four cougars, five bears, 25 deers, and a squirrel, according to The Seattle Times report.
“For some of these people, it was kind of a demented social club. For some, it was about ego and bravado—who could kill the biggest, the most,” Gunderson, told The Seattle Times. “For some people, it’s what their family did.”