Oregon Has a Poaching Problem—and a Force to Reckon With It
By Becca Cudmore
"Oregon State Police, this is Andrew," said the dispatcher covering Oregon's wildlife TIP (Turn In Poachers) line. It was mid-May, and Andrew Tuttle was prepared to answer a call on the latest deer wandering around with an arrow through her skull, or possibly a dynamited trout. (Salmon and steelhead were running upriver at the time.) His next step would be to pen down the who, what, when and where details and then send them through to an on-the-ground trooper in the caller's region. (In this case, the caller was a reporter inquiring about the agency's work. No further action needed here.)
Overall, this relay system has proved effective, even three decades in—though the line has been modernized over the years to accept text-message tips too. It's now easier to catch a wildlife killer than in the 1980s and '90s, and more are being reported. If 2018 is anything like recent years, some 700 Oregonians are expected to dial in a poaching case for state investigation. But while the TIP line serves as the vital first step in alerting local authorities to illegal hunts, Oregon's police continue to search for ways to address this issue.
The Beaver State is one of only two states where a division of fish and wildlife—which includes some 120 state troopers—is part of the official police force. This kind of dedication to addressing illegal wildlife killing has proved necessary: One six-year study in central Oregon found that poaching was responsible for 20 percent of the region's native mule deer deaths—more than were killed legally by hunters with permits in hand. Eighty percent of these illegal kills were female, which represents a real threat to the future of the mule deer population (not to be confused with their white-tailed counterparts). Statewide, the most recent poaching data come from 2015, when illegal killings of nearly 500 deer and more than 200 elk, Oregon's two most monitored species, were called in on the TIP line or discovered by authorities (15 cougars, 19 bears and 2 wolves were also reported that year).
Authorities hope that newly increased poaching fines, which include penalties such as $5,000 for a sturgeon or $50,000 for a mature male mountain goat, will help deter illegal kills. But many poachers have gotten savvy at evading punishment. "Figuring out the who, then trying and convicting that person and actually slapping him with penalties is rare," said Danielle Moser, a wildlife coordinator with Oregon Wild, a Portland-based conservation organization. More commonly, she noted, poachers will get nervous and turn themselves in—knowing that if they come forward and plead ignorance, they're likely to stave off financial or legal consequences. Reputations can also be on the line, as most people in the more rural communities adjacent to the woods know one another by name.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's new biennial budget for 2019 is trying to deal with these issues, with a particular focus on education. Last year, Fish and Wildlife created a coyote versus wolf online identification quiz specifically to address the claim often made by poachers that they thought their illegal wolf take was a legal coyote kill. (For the record, wolves have a stouter snout, and they also have cupped ears.) The next step, Moser said, is to simplify the big-game regulations governing hunting seasons and take numbers (season dates and hunting caps change annually and can vary by region), with the hope that clear communication will reduce the illegal kills.
But many of the state's poaching incidents can't be chalked up to misunderstanding. Moser referenced some recent cases in the state including the "mass murder" of 25 elk that were left wasting on private property in Wallowa County last year. Three bald eagles were also shot and killed, with their talons cut off, in the Willamette Valley in April. In the central part of the state, a radio-collared wolf was caught in a trap near a rancher's property; the poacher resorted to removing this creature's head to ditch the collar and avoid being caught. Because wolves are protected under the Endangered Species Act, their killings tend to be high-profile cases. And while only four wolves were killed illegally in Oregon in 2017, that's really not insignificant given that only 112 wolves were documented living in the state last year.
As the Oregon State Police has observed, most of these cases are crimes of opportunity. And Moser agreed. "Poaching happens when someone sees an animal and acts impulsively," she said. "They do it without much fear of being caught, and they aren't considering repercussions of killing what's part of our public trust."
Others see a darker motivation in play. After uncovering "a ring" of hunters charged with illegally killing 11 bears, deer, elk and bobcats in Oregon and Washington, one senior Oregon trooper who had been on the case for more than a year told the Seattle Times that he sees local wildlife poaching becoming something of a "demented social club." Some of the poachers in the ring had documented the deaths and recorded their dogs gnawing on the wounded bears, he said.
Whatever the perpetrators' motives, authorities responsible for catching the killers rely primarily on the people who prowl the same backwoods trails—that is, sportsmen and women. Mid-Valley Fish and Wildlife sergeant James Halsey said that authorized hunters and fishers will go out of their way to patrol the land. "They know more than anyone what is and what is not legal to do," he said. One 2016 survey revealed that active hunters and fishers identify poaching as an important issue more often than those who don't participate in these activities. And the police force encourages them to report any suspicious activity. (As hunters and anglers can provide only so much help, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has developed other strategies to entrap poachers—including a slew of stuffed and animated robot deer decoys that lure hunters.) As Republican Oregon State Representative Mike McLane told Mail Tribune last spring: "Poachers are cheaters ... They're criminals. No one likes them."
To add incentive, the Oregon Hunters Association has upped the rewards in TIP cases, giving a record $24,200 in 2017 to people who called in violations of the state's fish and wildlife laws—more than double the total rewards given out the previous year. Individual Hunters Association chapters and other conservation groups can pledge additional funds in selected cases, and offers have reached higher than $17,000, as with one bighorn sheep case in northeast Oregon and in an elk killing rampage in the southern part of the state. When a reward of $17,500 was offered for the latter, Oregon Live reported that "the elk killing stopped."
In a testament to the genuine concern Oregonians have for their wildlife, often TIP callers won't accept these rewards, says Halsey. No wonder, then, that state police have kept their hotline manned for 32 years.
You can file an Oregon poaching case online with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife at www.dfw.state.or.us or by calling 866-947-6339. Reach the Turn In Poachers Report Wildlife Violations line at 800-452-7888 or email TIP@state.or.us.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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