PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Three hunters will pay $16,000 for poaching an elk, a crime that Oregon Fish & Wildlife officials began investigating after getting a tip in November 2021.
Back then, the tipster spotted a picture on social media of a 6×6 bull elk on a trailer, thought it didn’t seem right and texted it to OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers.
One of the investigators, Senior Trooper Brent Ocheskey, also had questions. “An elk is a big animal, not easy to pack out without gutting and quartering it. That in itself was suspicious, especially in our patrol area,” he said in a statement.
After some research, investigators spotted the 6X6 bull elk head along with the hide on the back of a truck at the home of Lionardo Munoz.
Munoz had a spike elk tag, but not for a bull elk. He told investigators the elk belonged to his friend, Matt Wilkinson. Wilkinson said his wife, Rachel Hallett, shot the bull elk in the Santiam unit.
Investigators said they also found 3 additional deadheads from buck deer near the home of Wilkinson and Hallett.
At a recent hearing, the 3 hunters all pleaded guilty.
- Munoz, a Mosier resident, was fined $15,000 for the elk, had his hunting license suspended for 3 years, forfeited the elk, hunting licenses and tags, ordered to pay OSP $431.25 for cut-and-wrap costs and was put on bench probation for 18 months.
- Wilkinson and Hallett also live in Mosier. He pleaded guilty to unlawfully taking a bull elk and buck deer. The 38-year-old was fined $1000 for the elk, forfeited wildlife, hunting licenses and tags, had his hunting license suspended for 5 years, was put on bench probation for one year and ordered to do 40 hours of community service.
- Hallett was put on bench probation for a year for illegally taking a buck deer. Her hunting license was suspended for 3 years, forfeited wildlife, hunting licenses and tags and ordered to do 40 hours of community service.
Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW Wildlife Administrator, is encouraged by the outcome of the case.
“Oregon hunters, legislators and other conservationists worked hard to pass strict sentencing guidelines to address poaching cases like this one,” said ODFW Wildlife Administrator Bernadette Graham-Hudson. “Hopefully fines like this will serve as a warning to others who would behave so irresponsibly.”