An eight-month investigation by Oregon State Police fish and wildlife officers, aided by U.S. Forest Service law enforcement and Deschutes County sheriff's deputies, has led to several charges against three teens accused of the illegal take and waste of deer and elk in the Metolius Wildlife Management Unit.
"To see this basically happen in my backyard is very disappointing and frustrating," Sgt. David Pond of OSP Fish and Wildlife said Wednesday after the charges were announced.
Senior Trooper Mark Prodzinski and Senior Trooper Charles Lindberg began the investigation when locks were discovered shot off gates leading to critical mule deer winter range habitat.
"We had found that the subjects had entered the winter range," said Pond. "Then we started to find deer carcasses that were shot and left to waste. Some were does and no meat taken, just left there. Some were bucks with the head removed."
Pond added that the animals were killed after the rut, a crucial time for any herd.
"Most of your does would be in some sort of pregnancy," said Pond, "so that hurts your future generations of mule deer, and hurts the population in general."
OSP Fish & Wildlife troopers worked Wildlife Enforcement Decoy operations and late night patrols in the area, with the assistance of air flight patrols. During the investigation, troopers said they found other evidence of illegal deer poaching in different areas of the Metolius Unit.
Evidence accumulated during the investigation identified three main suspects who are facing charges in Deschutes, Jefferson and Jackson counties. They are identified as:
* Cole A. Craig, 18, from Bend
* Tyler S. Mitchell, 18, from Gold Hill
* A 17-year-old Sisters boy
Over the weekend, Craig was taken into custody and lodged in the Deschutes County Jail on local charges. He was also cited to appear in Jefferson County Circuit Court on charges for allegations in that county.
Mitchell was cited to appear on charges in Jackson County. The 17-year-old was cited to appear in Jefferson County Circuit Court for taking deer in closed season and three counts of aiding in a wildlife violation.
Charges against Craig include Taking Deer Closed Season (Jefferson - 8 counts, Deschutes - 1 count); Taking Elk Closed Season (Jefferson - 2 counts); Waste of Wildlife - Deer (Jefferson - 7 counts, Deschutes - 1 count); Waste of Wildlife - Elk (Deschutes - 2 counts); and, Hunting with Aid of Artificial Light (Jefferson - 3 counts).
Mitchell was cited for in Jackson County for Unlawful Possession of Deer Parts (6 counts). He was also cited to appear in Deschutes and Jefferson County for Taking Deer Closed Season (Jefferson - 5 counts, Deschutes - 1 count); Waste of Wildlife (Jefferson - 3 counts, Deschutes - 1 count); Hunting with Aid of Artificial Light (Jefferson - 3 counts); and Criminal Mischief in the First Degree (Jefferson - 1 count).
The investigation is continuing, troopers said.
If you come across anyone poaching animals, OSP says to call their tip line at 1-800-452-7888. That number can also be found on any state issued hunting or fishing license.