Oregon officials say a “suspicious” image posted to social media, showing a trophy bull elk carcass on a trailer, helped officers nab three poachers.
Lionardo Munoz, of Mosier, has been ordered to pay $15,000 for illegally harvesting the buck in November 2021. He also received a three-year hunting ban.
Matt Wilkinson, also of Mosier, must pay $1,000 for helping to conceal the crime. He received a five-year hunting ban.
Wilkinson’s wife, Rachel Hallett, was cited for illegally harvesting a buck deer.
The investigation began last Nov. 9, after a hunter had texted the image of the trophy bull elk to the Oregon State Police, Fish and Wildlife Division.
“Something was just not right about the photo of a 6×6 bull elk on a trailer,” the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife stated in a news release.
Said Senior Trooper Brent Ocheskey: “It was a big elk on that trailer. 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.”
Ocheskey and fellow Trooper Matt Newby obtained the name of Munoz as the hunter said to have shot the elk. When they arrived at the residence, the spotted Munoz and Wilkinson driving in a truck. In the truck’s bed was a 6×6 bull elk head and hide.
Munoz possessed a license for spike elk so it seemed as though his violation was simply harvesting an oversized buck. However, he told the troopers that the elk belonged to Wilkinson, who said the elk was harvested by his wife, Rachel Hallett.
Hallett went along with the lie, but only briefly. On her behalf, Wilkinson told investigators that Munoz had shot the buck in an orchard in Mosier, and that Wilkinson helped Munoz load the carcass onto the trailer.
At sentencing, Munoz and Wilkinson pleaded guilty to Unlawful Take of a Six-Point Bull. Munoz was ordered to pay the bulk of the fine.
Hallett pleaded guilty to Unlawful Take of Buck Deer. She received 12 months probation and must serve 40 hours of community service.
Said Bernadette Graham-Hudson, ODFW Wildlife Administrator: “Oregon hunters, legislators and other conservationists work hard to pass strict sentencing guidelines to address poaching cases like this one.
“Not only did the subjects steal a wildlife resource that belongs to all Oregonians, but they broke hunting safety laws while doing so. Hopefully fines like this will serve as a warning to other who would behave so irresponsibly.”
–Generic elk image atop this post courtesy of ©Pete Thomas