By The Chronicle
A quick thinking Pierce County man with a tractor has gained the admiration of many of his fellow Washingtonians after he used a little on-the-farm ingenuity to foil a pair of poachers on Saturday.
After a slow response by law enforcement to a report of poaching in progress, the man decided to use his tractor in order to smash up the poachers’ pickup truck and push it down an embankment. A report posted to Facebook by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife refers to the diesel-powered hero simply as “Tractor Man,” but the WDFW has stopped short of applauding his vigilante efforts.
“Respect private property, but if you feel someone isn’t, don’t take matters into your own hands — a license plate gets us what we need most of the time,” wrote the WDFW in their initial online report.
However, according to a woman who identified herself as the property owner where the poaching was occurring in an online reply to the WDFW, multiple steps were taken over several hours to try to find a more moderate solution. Kristy Rae, of Graham, noted that after multiple gunshots were heard from well within the confines of their 20-acre property, she and her husband called 911 to report the trespassing and suspected poaching. Rae said that after waiting two and half hours for the local sheriff to show up, the family was told that it was a WDFW matter and they were given a hotline to call. The sheriff left without taking any other action, and Rae said that phone call to the WDFW went unanswered and they were forced to leave a voicemail.
According to Rae, “At that point, we took things into our own hands, since nobody else would do anything, and armed ourselves and went looking for the poacher that was shooting so close to our house.”
Rae said that during the search, a neighbor located a suspicious truck nearby.
“The truck was on the piece of property next to ours, and when the property owner (aka: “Tractor Man”) showed up, he was really mad that someone parked on his property to poach on ours, and chaos ensued,” wrote Rae in her online reply to the WDFW.
She noted that while the response from her neighbor may not have been the only way to deal with the situation, they were all forced into an awkward, and dangerous, situation after they were left by law enforcement to fend for themselves with armed trespassers actively shooting on their property.
When WDFW officers finally showed up, after reading about the ongoing incident on an online community message board, they witnessed “Tractor Man” using his tractor to push the poachers’ truck over an embankment. They subsequently disarmed the man of a .44 magnum revolver and detained him for a time. The WDFW said that “Tractor Man” was given back his weapon but could face charges of malicious mischief. The case has not yet been forwarded to the Pierce County prosecutor.
The poachers, who killed a cow elk, were identified only as a 16-year old boy and his grandfather. The WDFW noted the poachers had recently moved to Washington and that the youth received bad advice from a schoolmate about the legality of taking a cow elk in that area. The youth also lacked a hunter’s education card from Washington or his previous state of residence. The WDFW has forwarded the case to the Pierce County prosecutor and noted online that charges could include closed season poaching with fines and mandatory hunter education training.
The weapon that was used to kill the elk was seized by law enforcement, and the pickup truck was totaled. The WDFW reported that the meat from the animal was donated to an Orting food bank.
In a response to their original online post the WDFW wrote, “First and foremost, we apologize for the poor response from law enforcement — no one should fear being on their own property, and we take the threat of endangerment of the public’s safety very seriously.”
The WDFW placed blame on local dispatch operators for failing to forward the call to their officers, particularly since it involved reports of active shooting. The department has promised to take actions to address the breakdown in communication in order to head off any similar situations in the future, noting that, “we cannot respond if it is not dispatched to us.”