Pendleton hunter sentenced under harsher poaching laws

By Antonio Sierra (OPB)
Sept. 5, 2023 1 p.m.

Poacher’s jail sentence will coincide with the next three elk hunting seasons

This 2005 file photo shows a bull elk.

This 2005 file photo shows a bull elk.

Courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

Oregon has spent the past few years bolstering its poaching laws and it’s ready to start publicizing the results.


The Oregon Department Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Police announced the conviction of Walker Erickson, a Pendleton man who had committed a “wildlife crime spree,” according to an Aug. 29 press release. Erickson pled guilty to 22 counts of illegally hunting deer and elk and other charges, resulting in $75,000 in fines and 14 days in jail. Instead of serving his time on consecutive days, Erickson’s sentence will be split over three years and coincide with elk season.

Yvonne Shaw, the Turn in Poachers campaign manager for ODFW, said poaching isn’t just needless killing but also theft.

“We want people to know that Oregonians take this seriously,” she said. “We value our natural resources and we understand that when people take fish and wildlife illegally, they’re stealing from all Oregonians. They’re impacting all of this for our future generations.”

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife unit began investigating Erickson in 2020 after receiving a tip on the state’s poaching tip line. The investigation led to a December 2021 search warrant, where authorities seized elk and deer antlers that helped connect him to the poaching of six deer and eight elk, including a massive bull elk “that would be the top trophy in any hunter’s collection,” wildlife anti-poaching resources prosecutor Jay Hall said in a statement.

The final piece of his punishment was the forfeiture of his hunting rifle and bow and a freezer’s worth of game meat. The meat was eventually redistributed to Blue Mountain Wildlife, a wild animal rehabilitation center that specializes in birds of prey, who are often the target of poachers.


Shaw said 5,000 poached animals were documented by authorities in Oregon last year, but that number is likely far lower than the amount of animals illegally killed.

“Many of the crimes against Fish and Wildlife happen in very rural areas. It can be secluded areas out in the deep forest. It can be out on the ocean. And these are places where it’s difficult to have the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife trooper presence … because Oregon is a pretty big state.”

A wide variety of offenses can be considered poaching, ranging from hunting an animal out of season to killing a wild animal that hunters aren’t allowed to target, to killing an animal and then letting it waste for the sake of killing, an activity known as a “thrill kill.”

Cracking down harder on poachers is one of the few policies that has broad political consensus in heavily polarized Oregon.

When lawmakers introduced House Bill 3035 in 2019, a bill that would bump some misdemeanor poaching crimes to felonies, the legislation drew support from both the Oregon Hunters Association and environmental groups like Oregon Wild and Oregon Defenders of Wildlife.

In a letter supporting the bill, hunters association board member Paul Donheffner referenced a 2018 incident where a poaching ring led to 120 misdemeanor charges connected to the unlawful killings of deer, bear, bobcat, squirrel and cougar.

“This was an organized killing ring,” he said. “They weren’t hunting, they were out to destroy our wildlife. It’s much more than a simple poaching case, and the consequences need to be more serious.”

The bill passed with near-unanimous support and was further aided by complementary bills that funded more wildlife police and a special wildlife crime prosecutor who works under the Oregon Department of Justice.

Shaw said the state hopes increased enforcement — in addition to their anti-poaching tipline and website — will help lower poaching across the state.