news-eyesinwoods-pUp to his antlers in tumble mustard, this young mule deer buck in late June velvet will be a sore temptation to law-bending nimrods if he is still strolling private property along the valley floor when hunting seasons open this fall. Photo by Mike Maltais

 

Citizens trained to be on lookout for lawbreakers

BY MIKE MALTAIS

Poachers, trespassers, litterers and like-kind lawbreakers who seem to favor the Methow Valley as a target-rich environment will have more locals on the lookout for them, thanks to the latest Eyes in the Woods training seminar held recently at the Methow Valley Interpretative Center at TwispWorks.

Over a dozen citizens attended the three-hour Crime Observation and Reporting Training workshop taught jointly by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement agents Cal Treser and Jason Day, Conservation Northwest’s Jay Kehne, and Ray Robertson of Western Wildlife Outreach.

Eyes in the Woods (EITW) was founded in 1995 in Washington by a group of concerned volunteers who wanted to support state agencies in response to the growing incidence of pollution of public land and water resources and wildlife abuses.

As co-founder Kyle Winton explains in the group’s promotional video: “Ten percent of the people do everything right and follow all the rules because that’s inherent in their being. Ten percent break every law they can because that’s inherent in their being, they’re just criminals.”

There’s a curve between both camps, Winton says, and that’s the audience EITW wants to reach to persuade people to make the right decision when it comes to protecting the public trust.

 

Lots of stories

Too many valley residents have their own stories of first-hand encounters with outdoor scofflaws. One of the more recent and memorable involved a party of bear baiters in the Cub Creek area who were eventually collared thanks in part to observations and reports from local eyewitnesses.

Twisp resident Paul Herget was one who attended the recent training.

“I’ve been a hunter and fisherman my whole life,” Herget said “and I spend a lot of time in the woods and out hiking the area.”

Herget said he often comes across garbage and messy campsites, and in the winter months has found telltale evidence left behind by poachers.

“This spring in the upper Beaver Creek area I saw a lot of mudding in the wet areas left by big-tire vehicles that purposely drive into those spots,” Herget added.

Herget said he already knew much of the EITW details from previous conversations with local game agents but found clarification about the use of the 911 emergency lines helpful. The instructors urged citizens to call 911 if they spot a violation in progress and need to file a report quickly.

Once in a while a violator is even captured on film. EITW attendee and Lower Beaver Creek resident Gary Ott snapped a suitable-for-framing photo of a bow hunter some years back cleaning his kill, a three-point buck, in the stream flowing through Ott’s property. The hunter and companions were cited, and Ott said he was amazed to learn later that Treser had caught the same individuals on previous occasions violating private property.

 

Valuable information

Most violations do not present such photo opportunities, and trying to get one could put the observer in conflict with one of EITW’s primary cautions: “be non-confrontational.”

That noted, the enforcement agents said they want to hear from citizens who believe they have witnessed a violation.

“At least 75 percent of the big game violations we act on are the result of citizens calling,” Treser said.

Treser and Day placed major emphasis on the kind of information that is valuable to include in a report and how to acquire it.

Vehicle details – such as make, model, color, license number and state – are important.

Suspect information including race, gender, clothing, height, weight, physical characteristics and weapon is very helpful.

The location and type of the violation with date and time, species involved, county, nearest town, game management unit and similar specifics count for a lot. In that regard, Day and Treser recommended using a GPS locator if available and marking the site with something that can be easily found when agents visit the area.

Most outdoorsmen now carry cell phones or other means of communication, and those devices offer a variety of ways to quickly record audio or text notes or even photograph details.

Witnesses are advised to retain their original notes. While anonymity is a high priority, there are those rare cases where the reporter of a violation might be asked to testify in court.

 

Reporting options

WDFW operates an enforcement emergency/incident hotline at 1-800-477-6224 Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. After-hours callers can contact the Washington State Patrol in Okanogan at (509) 826-7400 one of 24 WSP offices around the state.

“The 911 operator will channel your call to the proper agency,” Treser assured the class.

Treser also stressed the importance of determining whether a real violation is being committed and, if so, how to gather the important who, what, where and when details. Along that line, Treser encouraged everyone to become acquainted with general hunting and fishing season dates in order to have a basic understanding of what seasons are open for which species and where. He also reminded his audience that tribal hunting seasons differ from those available to non-Native Americans.

As a point of information, Treser pointed out that it is illegal to pick up road kill, and there is no local program currently in effect to collect road kills. Treser said anyone needing instructions on disposition of a road kill should contact him at (509) 322-4356 for further guidance.

The agents also addressed gifted wild game meat and advised that anyone giving or receiving wild game must have a written statement specifying the details of the transaction.

George Wooten of Twisp, a board member of the Methow Valley Interpretive Center, also attended the workshop.

“I attended EITW to encourage ethical behavior when visiting wildlife areas,” Wooten said. “This program trains people across the state to become trained crime observers. I hope more people do it.”

WDFW offers compensation for those who provide information leading to a conviction of anyone who kills wildlife illegally. A reward up to $3,000 is offered for “egregious violations such as spree killing of deer or elk” and up to $5,000 for crimes involving protected grizzly bear, wolverine, lynx or fisher.  The reward for reporting the illegal killing of a gray wolf is $7,500.

The following resources are also available for violation reporting:

• Email reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov.

• Poaching hotline, 1-877-933-9847.

• Text your tip to 847411(TIP411)WDFWTIP, (space) and file your report.

For more information on EITW visit the organization’s website at www.eyesinthewoods.org. More details about free training are available by calling (509) 470-1767.