travis-rupert- Elk and Deer Poaching in Eastern Oregon - The Inside Spread

Category: Crime

Elk and Deer Poaching in Eastern Oregon

Hunting, when done ethically, is not just a sport—it’s a tradition, a connection to nature, and a testament to the balance of our ecosystem. However, when this balance is disrupted by illegal activities like poaching, it tarnishes the essence of hunting. The recent case of elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon serves as a stark reminder of the importance of ethical hunting and the consequences of straying from it.

The Case Details

In a blatant disregard for wildlife and the rules that protect them, Walker Dean Erickson from Pendleton, Oregon, embarked on what officials have termed a “wildlife crime spree.” This severe case of elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon led to Erickson facing hefty fines and jail time. But what makes Erickson’s actions particularly egregious is the extent and duration of his illicit activities.

Over the course of more than a year, Erickson’s poaching activities went unchecked. He didn’t just target any animals; he specifically went after trophy animals, showcasing a greed-driven motive rather than sustenance hunting. Among the evidence collected from his residence in December 2021 were three sets of elk antlers, one of which belonged to a trophy animal, and six sets of deer antlers. These discoveries painted a grim picture of his actions, revealing the scale of his crimes in Eastern Oregon.

Furthermore, the tools of his trade—a rifle and a bow—were also seized, providing concrete evidence of his hunting methods. But perhaps the most damning evidence was the meat found at his residence. While many hunters hunt for food, Erickson’s case was different. He left game animals to waste, indicating that his primary motivation was likely the thrill of the kill or the value of the trophies.

The Oregon State Police’s investigation into Erickson began in the summer of 2020 after a tip-off. This tip led to a series of discoveries that would eventually culminate in Erickson’s arrest and conviction. The case serves as a stark reminder of the lengths some individuals will go to, driven by misguided motives, and the importance of community vigilance in reporting suspicious activities related to elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon.

The New Law for Oregon Wildlife Conservation

Oregon’s wildlife, a treasure trove of biodiversity, has long been under threat from activities like elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon. Recognizing the need for stricter regulations to deter such heinous crimes, the Oregon Legislature took a decisive step in 2019. They introduced House Bill 3035, a groundbreaking piece of legislation that has since reshaped the legal landscape surrounding wildlife crimes in the state.

Before the introduction of this bill, poaching crimes were treated as misdemeanors, often resulting in minimal penalties that did little to deter repeat offenders. However, House Bill 3035 changed the game. It granted prosecutors the power to elevate poaching crimes from a misdemeanor to a felony, ensuring that those who harm wildlife face consequences commensurate with the severity of their actions.

The bill was introduced with a clear goal in mind: to curb the illegal taking of animals for various reasons, be it for trophy racks, spree killing, out-of-state money for hire, or repeated violations. By elevating the legal consequences, the state aimed to send a clear message to potential poachers about the seriousness with which it views wildlife crimes, especially elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon.

Erickson’s case stands as a testament to the bill’s effectiveness. Had his crimes occurred just a year earlier, before the introduction of House Bill 3035, he would have faced only misdemeanor charges. But with the new law in place, his actions were rightly recognized as felonies, leading to a more fitting punishment for elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon.

The Impact of Poaching and Ethical Hunting on Wildlife Conservation

Oregon’s diverse landscapes, from its lush forests to its rugged coastlines, are home to a myriad of wildlife species. These animals not only contribute to the state’s rich biodiversity but also play crucial roles in maintaining ecological balance. However, the dark shadow of poaching, especially elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon, looms large, threatening the very fabric of this delicate ecosystem.

Poaching is not a victimless crime. Every animal killed illegally disrupts the natural balance, potentially leading to overpopulation or underpopulation of certain species and could reduce potential tags for legal hunters. For instance, Elk, being one of the largest herbivores in many North American ecosystems, play a vital role in shaping the vegetation and landscapes of the regions they inhabit. Their grazing habits can foster a more diverse plant community in several ways. However, their abundance can lead to overgrazing, which in turn affects the entire food chain.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has been at the forefront of conservation efforts, working tirelessly to ensure the survival and prosperity of the state’s wildlife. However, the alarming statistic mentioned by the Tri-City Herald that nearly 5,000 animals were poached in Oregon in 2022 underscores the magnitude of the challenge they face. OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers recover about 250 deer, 150 elk, 17 bears, and 60 or more sturgeon killed illegally each year. This is only a fraction of the total number of cases.

Nationally, only a small portion of wildlife crimes are detected, with estimates ranging from 0.67 to 3.33 percent. While the exact number of 5,000 animals poached in 2022 is not directly mentioned on the ODFW site, the data provided does emphasize the severity of the poaching problem in Oregon. Such numbers are not just data points; they represent wildlife that can’t used properly by a legal hunter, each with a role in the ecosystem, each loss potentially effecting future wildlife and hunters ability to receive a tag.

But amidst this grim scenario, initiatives like the Turn In Poachers (TIP) shine as beacons of hope. Community involvement has always been the backbone of conservation efforts. By encouraging citizens to report suspicious activities, the TIP initiative amplifies the eyes and ears on the ground, making it harder for poachers to operate undetected, especially those involved in elk and deer poaching in Eastern Oregon.

As hunters, it’s our collective responsibility to ensure that the sanctity of hunting is preserved. While the actions of a few can cast a shadow, it’s essential to remember and promote the positive aspects of hunting. Ethical hunting is about respect—for the animals, for nature, and for the community. Let’s stand united against poaching and work towards a future where every hunt is a testament to our love for wildlife and nature, especially in regions like Eastern Oregon.

To report suspected poaching in Oregon, reach out to the Turn In Poachers (TIP) line at 800-452-7888 or email

**If you have a topic or story that you would like The Inside Spread to write about, reach out at or contact us here.**