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Oregon Couple Pleads Guilty to Poaching Bison in Grand Teton National Park

A pair of Oregon residents have pleaded guilty to poaching a bison in Grand Teton National Park last winter.

According to a Grand Teton press release, Gary Washington plead guilty to violating the Lacey Act, a Class A Misdemeanor, for illegally transporting a bison after killing it in national park boundaries. Laurie Washington plead guilty for her role in the incident. From the press release:

On December 5, 2015, two bison hunters reported they had found a suspicious scene at the end of the Elk Ranch Road. The hunters described finding a large gut pile in the road, possibly from a bison, with a drag trail in the snow originating in Grand Teton National Park. A park ranger and state wildlife warden responded to the scene and confirmed the information provided by the other hunters. Evidence indicated it was a recent kill, and the bison meat, head and hide had been removed from the scene.

Based on snowfall and evidence at the scene, investigators were able to determine the kill happened one day earlier. The investigation determined that two individuals had walked past several boundary signs prior to shooting a bull bison approximately one quarter of a mile inside the park. After shooting the bison, track evidence demonstrated that one of the individuals involved in the illegal taking of wildlife then walked out to retrieve a utility task vehicle and drove this vehicle off road back into the park, passing several more boundary signs along the way, in order to retrieve the dead bison. As a result of this retrieval, the driver of the vehicle caused significant resource damage to vegetation in the area. The animal was subsequently field dressed at a location outside of the park boundary before being transported to a campsite along the Spread Creek Road.

Information supplied by other hunters, as well as other investigative leads, led to the positive identification of suspects in this case. The investigation continued through the winter and a park ranger and a National Park Service special agent traveled to Oregon this spring to interview Gary and Laurie Washington. The Washingtons admitted to shooting the bison and cooperated with the investigation, relinquishing the bison skull, hide, meat and other associated evidence.

The Washingtons were charged and summoned to appear in court before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman. On October 11, Gary Washington pled guilty to the Lacey Act charge and Laurie Washington pled guilty to illegal take of wildlife. The sentence for Gary Washington included a financial penalty of $8,025, three years of unsupervised probation, and a world-wide hunting ban through 2017. Laurie Washington’s sentence also included three years of unsupervised probation, a world-wide hunting ban through 2017, and a $35 court processing fee. Following the conclusion of the case, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department helped to coordinate the donation of several hundred pounds of recovered bison meat to community members in need.

Poaching in national parklands is a serious concern for both officials and the public. If you see any suspicious or illegal activity around Grand Teton, please call the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center at 307-739-3301.

About Sean Reichard

Sean Reichard is the editor of Yellowstone Insider and author of Yellowstone Insider For Families 2017.

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