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Washington Poacher Loses Hunting Privileges For Life, Fined $29,000
September 26, 2005
A Washington poacher has lost his right to hunt in Idaho, and potentially eighteen other states forever, and will have to pay nearly $30,000.
Christian Witt, 32, of Battleground, Washington was sentenced in District Court in Nezperce, Idaho on September 14. It was the culmination of an 18 month investigation that involved wildlife officers from Idaho, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia. Witt was charged with felony conspiracy and twelve misdemeanor wildlife charges. Through a plea agreement, Witt received a withheld judgment on the felony conspiracy and five misdemeanors.
Witt received a lifetime revocation of his hunting privileges. His fines, civil penalties and restitution to Idaho totaled $29,150. He was placed on five year supervised probation. His father, Billy Jack Witt, 58, was sentenced in July, 2005. He received a five year hunting license revocation, with fines and civil penalties that totaled $9,750.
Six other defendants involved in the case have been sentenced in Idaho. They were Bradley Zenner, 46, of Nezperce, Idaho; Scott LeMaster, 32, of Vancouver, Washington; Scott Fritcher, 46, of Oregon City, Oregon; Warren Dunn, 56, of Yacolt, Washington; Brian Shepherd, 31, of Terrebonne, Oregon and Terrence Wallingford, 35, of Vancouver, Washington. All received hunting license revocations from 1 to 3 years.
"The cooperation between all the wildlife agencies involved was outstanding," Assistant Enforcement Chief Clay Cummins said. "Without the assistance, expertise, and persistence of all the investigators involved, this investigation would not have been nearly as successful. We realize some of these poachers are very mobile, and it is to our advantage to share information and resources to help protect the wildlife resource of all our states and provinces."
During the investigation, Idaho investigators uncovered evidence of numerous poached big game animals taken in years going as far back as 1998. But, because of Idaho's statute of limitations, which can expire in one or two years, charges could not be filed.
"It is common for us to detect a lot more violations than can be charged in these undercover investigations" Cummins said. "The short statute of limitations hinders prosecution because many times these investigations take years to complete, and the evidence collected often shows habitual poaching going back many more years." Animals that were taken illegally in Idaho included elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, pheasant and wild turkey. Poaching violations included closed season hunting, tag transfers, and over-limits of game taken. "Typical party hunting activity that is common in Idaho" says Cummins.
During this investigation, the Witt's also took Idaho and British Columbia investigators on an illegally guided salmon fishing trip at Terrace, British Columbia in July 2004. They were arrested and charged by Canadian and British Columbian authorities. Equipment was seized from the Witt's including a 22 foot jet boat, a Ford ¾ ton diesel pickup and fishing tackle. This equipment was appraised at $110,000 (Canadian). The Witts pleaded guilty to the charges in British Columbia in December 2004. They were fined $24,000 and forfeited the seized equipment.
Idaho is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC). Under the compact, member states may honor each other's license revocations. There are presently 19 member states in the IWVC which includes most of the western states, along with the eastern states of Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota and Missouri.
"All of these states will benefit from the prosecution of these commercial poachers," Cummins said "Hopefully this case will make Idahoans more aware that people who steal wildlife are stealing from all of us. I encourage all Idahoans to get involved and help protect Idaho wildlife from these criminals."
Anyone who witnesses or suspects poaching activity is encouraged to contact the Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) Hotline at 1-800-632-5999. Callers can qualify for a cash reward, and can remain anonymous.