Game Law Violations

Report from California

A Killing Spree in Siskiyou County...
by Warden Liz Schwall

Three Humboldt County men will have to pay dearly for the destruction they wrought in Siskiyou County last fall.

Good detective work and a little good luck enabled Del Norte County warden Paul Weldon to solve this case.

The three Crescent City residents were camped in the remote area of Horse Creek in western Siskiyou County. The next morning the trio set off in their truck to do a little "hunting." They spotted a range steer which one shot in the face with a 30-30 rifle. He later said that he had intended to skin the steer and use the meat. When he reached the animal, however, he realized that it was too large for him to handle. Furthermore, the steer had rolled down a hill close to the road and he was afraid that he would be seen so he and the other two men instead left the carcass to rot. An angry rancher showed up at their camp that night and asked if they’d shot his cow. All three denied any involvement in the shooting.

After abandoning the steer, the trio continued on. Later that day, he and another of the three spotted and then shot a bull elk. In California, elk tags are issued to only the few hunters lucky enough to be drawn, and the shooter was not a holder of an elk tag.

The two quartered the elk with a chainsaw and took it to the home of one's parents in Crescent City. There the carcass hung for two days in the warm autumn weather where it soon spoiled. The decayed elk was then stuffed into black plastic garbage bags and dumped at the local landfill.

Meanwhile, the third partner in crime went out "hunting" again. This man, accompanied by several of his buddies, came upon a doe deer which was promptly killed with a 12-gauge shotgun. The backstraps were removed and the carcass was abandoned.

After receiving "tips" from both the DFG’s CalTIP line and from other sources, Warden Weldon began his painstaking investigation by locating and interviewing the first man. He admitted to killing the range cow and participating in killing the elk. He then agreed to accompany the warden to where he claimed to have dumped the elk’s antlers. Although they were not able to find them, his tire tracks were visible where he said he had thrown the antlers out. He then drew a map for the warden indicating where the elk and the cow had been shot. While riding with the warden, he asked about the doe that his friend had killed. Although Weldon had no knowledge of the illegally poached doe at this point, he cooly played along with him and obtained the details of yet another crime. Warden Weldon realized that he probably would never have detected this additional crime unless "clued in" by the accommodating game law violator.

Armed with the map of the "kill sites," Weldon next traveled to Horse Creek in search of the remains of the slaughtered cow and elk. Although the crude, hand-drawn maps pointed to the general area, Weldon was concerned that he would not be able to locate the scant remains of an illegally taken elk or the decaying remains of a steer in the vast forest terrain. While in the general area, the warden stopped to talk to a hunter. Weldon asked the man if he’d seen a dead cow. He was both pleased and surprised when the hunter said, "Yes!" and even more amazed when the hunter then asked if he knew of anyone recently taking an elk. Weldon was then escorted to the remains of the dead elk.

When at the site, the warden collected tissue samples from the elk for DNA analysis. He also collected several beer cans and a wine box liner (all with blood on them) for fingerprint analysis. An expended .30-06 casing was also recovered within 40 feet of the elk. After finishing up at the elk site, Weldon was able to locate and examine the remains of the partially decomposed range steer.

Over the next several days more than a dozen interviews were conducted with the suspects and numerous witnesses. The elk remains were submitted to the DFG Forensics Lab in Sacramento for analysis. The beer cans and wine box were sent the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Lab in Ashland, Oregon for fingerprint analysis, and the shell casings were sent to the Department of Justice in Sacramento.

The three were charged with an assortment of wildlife crimes in addition to the illegally killed steer. The case was filed with Siskiyou County and all were subsequently found guilty and convicted in the summer of 2000.

The first was found guilty and fined $1,655 and must pay $3,000 in restitution to the Department of Fish & Game's Preservation Fund for the elk. He was also ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution for the range steer he killed. Total fines: almost $6,000. He is currently on three years searchable probation and his hunting license has been revoked for five years. During this time, he may not possess any weapons, and may not hunt or be with anyone who is hunting.

The second man was fined a total of $1,775 for his involvement. He must also pay restitution in the amount of $3,000 to the DFG's Preservation Fund. He is on three years probation during which time he may not hunt, possess weapons, or be with anyone who is hunting.

The third was fined $1,755 and ordered to pay $100 in restitution. He is currently on three years searchable probation during which time he cannot possess any weapon, hunt, or be in the company of anyone hunting.

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