Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mule deer poaching a problem in Oregon

As the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife surveyed the state's population of mule deer, the researchers discovered a "shocking level of poaching" in Central Oregon. Michelle Dennehy, a Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, told Richard Cockle, of The Oregonian, "If we look at the illegal take, it's basically equal to the legal take -- it's bad." (Photo by Nick Myatt, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Oregon's population of mule deer has fallen to 216,000 from its highest number, 300,000. The survey also revealed that poachers tend to take female deer, which slows building the herd. The mule deer population is not only killed off by poaching, but it is also threatened by black bears, cougars and grey wolves which are predators to the mule deer. Reduced habitat also threatens mule deer in the region.

Poachers are motivated by several factors: eager to get a jump on the season, the cost of licenses, or money made off of the mounted heads of the deer which are sold for thousands of dollars. Poachers are notoriously difficult to catch, said Oregon State Police game officer Chris Hawkins. Poachers often work quickly -- within minutes after killing a deer, they move on, Hawkins said. "They take the backstrap and hindquarters and they're gone," he told Cockle, noting that scavengers strip the rest and scatter the bones within a week or two. As one poacher told Hawkins during a criminal case: "Some people do cocaine. Hunting is my drug." (Read more)

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