Four men investigated for hunting deer at night, poaching

Four men accused of hunting deer at night — a violation of state rules — could face criminal charges following a recent investigation into serial poaching on San Juan Island.

Local prosecutors are expected to meet with state Fish and Wildlife officers early next week to review the case and determine what, if any, crimes each of the four men may be charged with. All four are in their early 20s and are believed to have played some role in the alleged poaching, according to Sgt. Mike Hobbs of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Hobbs declined to identify the four suspects as the investigation is "ongoing and still active." He's unsure if all four are San Juan Island residents.

Hobbs said the department launched its investigation after receiving tips from several people who called with similar complaints about hunters using spotlights to track down and kill deer after dark.

According to a WDFW press release, Fish and Wildlife officers served a search warrant Oct. 29 at a San Juan Island home where numerous firearms, archery equipment, vehicles, deer antlers and other items of physical evidence believed to be associated with the case were later seized. Hobbs declined to identify the home's location.

Sheriff Bill Cumming said Fish and Wildlife typically takes the lead in cases that involve possible hunting violations. He said his department was aware of the investigation and that it supports the state in its effort to prevent poaching. He said several of the alleged violations, if true, such as hunting at night, show a disregard for the safety of others.

"There are a lot of hunters who abide by the rules and those who don't should be held accountable," Cumming said. "All these activities are illegal and some are downright dangerous."

Local regulations, Cumming added, require a hunter to carry written permission of the landowner when hunting on private property.

The "bag limit" for general-season hunters is one deer on San Juan Island in 2010. According to WDFW, the four men are believed to be responsible for killing a dozen deer or more.

Possible charges include numerous counts of using a spotlight to hunt game, hunting without a license, hunting with aid of a motor vehicle, wastage of big game, and criminal conspiracy, according to WDFW's press release.

Hobbs said it was not yet known whether the suspects will be charged with misdemeanors or felonies.

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