Investigators hope the lure of big cash and the cloak of anonymity can help break open three separate big-game poaching cases from this fall around the Rogue Valley.
Rewards of up to $5,500 are being offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for elk-poaching cases outside Shady Cove and in the Applegate Valley as well as a trophy deer killed recently in southeast Grants Pass.
The Oregon Hunters Association, through its Turn In Poachers program, is offering $500 of those rewards, says Sgt. Jim Collom of the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division. The remaining $5,000 comes from the Humane Society of the United States, which has joined forces with the OHA on past poaching cases.
A bull elk was poached Sept. 28 off Rogue River Drive south of Shady Cove, where the body was left to rot and only the head and antlers were taken, Collom says. That bull is from a herd that frequents the private ranches in and around the old Alumaweld boat-building facilities there, Collom says.
Two other elk were poached sometime in mid-October in the Dutchman Peak area off Forest Service Road No. 20, Collom says. They were both in the same vicinity and both had their heads taken and their bodies left to rot, Collom says.
A witness who discovered the carcasses said they were in similar states of decay, so Collom says he believes they are linked.
Though the Shady Cove and Applegate Valley cases are very similar, Collom says it is "highly doubtful" they are related, largely because of the distance between them.
The final case with the $5,500 rewards involves a black-tailed buck deer with three-by-four antlers that was found dead Nov. 24 in a yard off Frankham Road near Cloverlawn Drive in southeast Grants Pass.
The buck died from a single arrow, likely from the previous day, but no arrow was recovered, Collom says. There was only a legal muzzleloader hunt in the nearby area, and hunting was not open for archers that day.
Based on its antler growth, the buck likely was a descendant of the massive six-by-eight-antlered buck called "Goliath" that was killed by a poacher in the same neighborhood six years ago, Collom says.
The meat was not salvageable, and OSP seized the deer's head and antlers that since have been placed in OSP's wildlife evidence freezer in Central Point, Collom said.
Anyone with information was asked to call the statewide TIP line at 1-800-452-7888 or OSP at 541-776-6111. Callers to the TIP line can have their anonymity protected, says Collom.