POACHER PLEADS GUILTY
On September 14, Battleground, Wash., resident Christian Witt, 32, received a withheld judgment on charges of felony conspiracy and five misdemeanors after reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors in Idaho. Originally charged with felony conspiracy and 12 misdemeanor wildlife charges, Witt will lose his hunting privileges in Idaho for life and will pay fines, civil penalties and restitution to the State of Idaho in the amount of $29,150. Witt's father, Billy Jack Witt, and six other defendants have received various sentences that include fines and between one and five years revocation of hunting privileges.
The charged hunters from Idaho, Washington and Oregon are suspected of being responsible for the poaching of big game animals as far back as 1998. However, Idaho's statute of limitations for such crimes often expires in one or two years, and previous investigations did not lead to charges being filed because once the investigation was complete, the statute of limitations had expired. Investigators surmise that Witt and Co. illegally took elk, mule deer, white-tailed deer, black bear, pheasant and wild turkey. An "illegal take" includes closed season hunting, tag transfers and overlimits of game take.
Whether last week's sentencing will deter Witt from future poaching behavior remains to be seen, as previous fines for similar crimes proved ineffective. Last December, Witt and his father pleaded guilty to charges in British Columbia after taking investigators on an illegally guided salmon fishing trip in Terrace, British Columbia, in July 2004. A Canadian court ordered Witt and his father to pay fines of $24,000 and forfeit fishing equipment (including a 22-foot jet boat, a Ford pickup truck and fishing tackle) appraised at $110,000 (Canadian).
Because of his license revocation in Idaho, Witt could lose his hunting privileges in 18 other states as well. Idaho is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, whose members may choose to honor the license revocations of other member states.
Citizens Against Poaching (CAP) encourages anyone who witnesses or suspects poaching to contact their hotline at 800-632-5999. Some information qualifies callers for a cash reward and callers may remain anonymous.