Central Washington game wardens are looking for tips that lead them to those responsible for shooting up a herd of elk near Ellensburg on Nov. 6, and two conservation groups are offering $4,000 in reward for info leading to a conviction in the case.
The incident occurred in Schnebly Canyon north of town between 9 and 11 that morning, the last day of rifle elk season, and began with a report of three dead elk on a hillside.
But when officers arrived they discovered even more.
“We found four dead calves in a line within 100 yards,” said Officer Roman Varyvoda.
Helpful hunters on the scene followed a blood trail that led to a fifth elk, a “big healthy cow” that also died, he says.
More may have been wounded too.
Varyvoda says that reported radio traffic from the time mentions 23 elk in a herd, and that after the elk were shot at, someone told everyone on the frequency to not to say a word.
He says that no effort was made to salvage any of the elk either.
“I’ve only been doing this for three years, but this is the worst I’ve seen so far. Who knows how many more are out there,” Varyvoda says. “As a hunter, it makes my blood boil.”
The area was only open to true spike bulls for general season hunters. Hundreds of antlerless elk tags are also available for overlapping special permit seasons.
While there are suggestions the herd may have been surrounded by a group of shooters, under Washington’s spree poaching law, anyone who poaches three or more deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, caribou, cougars, black bears or grizzly bears within 24 hours or “course of events” could be charged with unlawful hunting in the first degree, a class C felony.
The Northwest Chapter of Safari Club International initially offered a $1,000 reward and this evening Conservation Northwest added $3,000 to the pot.
“Agencies, conservation groups and individuals work hard to support healthy wildlife populations in our state,” said Chase Gunnell, deputy communications manager at CNW. “When this kind of egregious poaching happens the culprits need to be held responsible. Personally, I spent six days hunting the backcountry this year and didn’t fill my elk tag. To hear about this wanton waste is especially infuriating.”
As an added incentive, the state is offering coveted points for its special permit hunts.
“WDFW is offering 10 Bonus Points to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest,” Varyvoda adds.
Anyone with information on the case is being asked to call WDFW’s Poaching Hotline, (877) 933-9847, file a report through the agency’s website, or text tips to WDFWTIP Report and send them to 847411.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this post listed the wrong chapter of Safari Club International as the source of the $1,000 reward. It is being offered by the Northwest Chapter, not the Seattle Chapter. Our apologies.