Poachers left two pronghorn antelope dead and two more to suffer on the night of Jan. 16 in a thrill kill near the eastern Oregon town of Crane.
Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish and Wildlife Division would like to hear from anyone who saw unusual activity on Hwy 78 near milepost 33.
The Turn in Poachers (TIP) reward stands at $1,000 cash or seven Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife hunter preference points for information that leads to an arrest or citation in this case. The Oregon Hunters Association manages the TIP reward fund.
A landowner noticed two pronghorn antelope does behaving strangely on the morning of Jan. 17 in his field along Hwy 78. When he reached the does, he could see the animals were badly injured. The landowner contacted OSP Fish and Wildlife Division and Senior Trooper Dean Trent, from the Burns office, responded.
Trent could tell right away that the injuries were not survivable and a result of intentional criminal activity. The injured does were euthanized immediately. Senior Trooper Trent then located two additional does that had been killed outright, clearly during the same incident. OSP Fish & Wildlife Sgt. Erich Timko said the dead does had been partially devoured by predators, indicating the kills likely happened sometime the previous evening of Sunday, Jan. 16 to the early morning hours of Monday, Jan. 17
A large herd of about 30 pronghorn antelope had been visible in the landowner’s field for the past week or so, making them easy targets, according to Sergeant Timko. This time of year, pronghorn can graze on winter hay and alfalfa fields in areas that allow pronghorn to use their superior eyesight and speed to avoid predators as well as provide the food and water necessary to support large numbers of animals, according to ODFW Malheur Watershed District Manager Phillip Milburn.
“Harney County is home to some of the largest pronghorn herds in the state,” Milburn said, “The terrain allows them to survive the weather and evade predators, so it is very likely that all four of those does would have survived and had fawns.”
However, the landscape does not provide protection from poachers. When poachers take females, that also impacts herd numbers.
“I don’t understand anyone’s motivation for doing something like this,” Milburn said, “Poaching happens often enough to be population-limiting in our herds. An area only needs a few bucks, but the number of does determines how the herd will — or won’t — expand.”
Wildlife advocates and managers are disturbed at the act- and impact- of poaching thrill kills. ODFW Wildlife Administrator Bernadette Graham-Hudson takes poaching personally and believes the crime cannot be tolerated.
“Poaching four pronghorn does is an atrocious act, especially leaving two to die,” Graham-Hudson said, “The disrespect for Oregon’s wildlife greatly upsets me. I am hopeful that those responsible will be brought to justice.”
Stop Poaching campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw agrees.
“Thrill kills go against all our values about what Oregon is, and how we value our wildlife,” Shaw said.
OSP would like to hear from anyone with information on this case, not only because of the crime committed, but also the ongoing impact to the larger population of pronghorn across the state.
“This is egregious. Surviving the winter conditions alone is difficult for these animals,” Timko said. “To just kill them and leave them is such a sad waste of our wildlife. It is very likely had they survived the winter they would have given birth to at least one fawn each.”
Anyone who has information regarding this incident is asked to contact Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Senior Trooper Dean Trent through the OSP TIP Hotline: 1-800-452-7888 or *OSP (677) or TIP E-Mail: TIP@state.or.us.