January 31, 2007
Oregon police investigate bighorn poaching
A bighorn sheep in a delicate herd in the Leslie Gulch area of southeastern Oregon was illegally killed this winter, and wildlife officials are raising funds to offer a reward for information in the poaching incident.
"The sheep carcass was found by hunters on Jan. 20," Trooper Bob Wilson of the Oregon State Police in Ontario said Tuesday.
The kill was just a few miles north of the Leslie Gulch Road near Long Gulch, which is south of Three Fingers Rock. It is a popular recreation area.
Wildlife officials say the animal was shot a day or two before it was discovered.
"Its head was removed at the first vertebrae," he said, "It is believed to be a ram but the actual size and maturity is unknown."
Law enforcement officers are working with the Oregon and Idaho chapters of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and the Oregon Hunters Association to get a reward.
"The exact dollar amount of the reward has not been set at this point but will be substantial," Wilson said.
Bighorn sheep are a highly prized and sought-after big game animal. Given the right circumstances and market, a bighorn ram head and mount can bring in thousands of dollars, he said.
Bighorn sheep in Leslie Gulch are California bighorns. The herd is the third oldest in Oregon, Wilson said.
It was started with a transplant of 17 sheep from Canada in 1965. The herd is in delicate balance. It contains about 125 animals, and although it is considered healthy, it is not productive.
"Replacing lost members (of the herd) is not increasing," Wilson said.
The size of the herd was 350 in 1993, and the main losses are from cougars and poisoning from water tainted with green algae.
Despite the losses, conservation groups are helping by improving habitat, raising funds for trapping and transplanting animals and building guzzlers, or water tanks.
Hunting is allowed in the area.
Last year, four sheep tags were issued for the area.
To offer story ideas or comments, contact reporter Pete Zimowsky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 377-6445.
Turn in a poacher
The Oregon Hunters Association has a Turn in a Poacher (TIP) program at (800) 452-7888.
Anyone who has information about a poaching incident can call the TIP line.
That information will be provided to the Oregon State Police office nearest the poaching incident.
The caller can choose to remain anonymous, but if they provide a name and telephone number an officer can contact them for any further details.
Rewards are paid out upon the arrest and conviction of the poacher.
The reward for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons who illegally killed a bighorn sheep ram in the Long Gulch area of Malheur County in late January has increased to up to $9,250 with recent donations of $500 by the Lake County Chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association, $500 from the Redmond Chapter of OHA and $4,000 from the Oregon, Idaho and Washington chapters of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and from its national headquarters. More contributions to the reward fund are expected.
The funds come from OHA's Turn in Poachers (TIP) program, which provides rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people who violate Oregon's fish and wildlife laws, and from local OHA chapters.
Ten other OHA chapters of the Oregon Hunters Association have contributed a total of $4,000 towards the reward. Other chapters contributing to the bighorn sheep poaching incident reward include Pioneer, Umpqua, Klamath, Baker, Capitol, Columbia County, Josephine County, Hoodview, Mid-Columbia and Portland. Backcountry Hunters and Anglers have contributed $250 in award funds.
Four hunters discovered the headless body of an illegally killed California bighorn in the Long Gulch area east of Owyhee Reservoir sheep on Jan. 22. An investigation by the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division is ongoing.
Anyone with information about the incident should contact lead investigator Oregon State Police Trooper Robert Wilson at (541) 889-6469 ext. 771 or call the TIP hotline at 1-800-452-7888.
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