Four plead guilty in Washington County poaching spree

csewell@idahostatesman.comMarch 25, 2014 

During a four-week period in fall 2012, four poachers went on a binge in Washington County, killing or wounding more than a dozen deer, protected birds and other wildlife.

After receiving a phone call, Idaho Fish and Game officers identified four men, who later pleaded guilty: Kaden Skinner, 19, of Weiser; Brady King, 19, of Meridian; Vaughn Drake, 19, of Meridian; and Nathan Graham, 19, of Meridian.

Through agreements with the Washington County prosecutor, the four defendants pleaded guilty to misdemeanors and agreed to pay a total of $24,450 in fines, penalties and restitution.

In addition, their hunting licenses were revoked for three to five years. The license suspensions also apply to 37 other states. And the defendants each got 24 months of probation; a violation committed during that period could lead to 180 days in jail for their poaching crimes.

The misdemeanor pleas included unlawful taking of game, taking game with the aid of artificial light and wasteful destruction of wildlife.

The investigation started in September 2012, when Fish and Game conservation officer Mark Sands received a call via the agency’s Citizens Against Poaching hotline. The caller’s description led Sands to a location off Rock Creek Road northwest of Weiser, where he found a mule deer buck shot and left to waste.

A passing bird hunter tipped Sands to another possible poached deer in the same general area. Sands found a second mule deer buck, its skullcap removed and the carcass left to waste. With a metal detector, Sands located a bullet in the carcass and removed it. He was able to deduce the bullet’s trajectory, and after a brief search, discovered a casing on the side of the road that matched the bullet in the carcass.

In the ensuing weeks, several other deer and three domestic cows were found shot along Rock Creek Road.

Sands got an anonymous tip in January 2013 naming a Weiser man as the shooter and implicating several Meridian men in the poaching spree.

One of the defendants agreed to pay restitution — without admitting guilt — to the rancher who owned the cows.

Sands said the case demonstrates the importance of public involvement in protecting Idaho wildlife.

“Simply stated, without critical information provided by local citizens, this case might never have come to a successful conclusion,” he said.

Anyone with information regarding a possible wildlife violation are encouraged to call the Citizens Against Poaching hotline at 1(800) 632-5999 twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward.

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