WDFW Poaching Case

Poaching Reports Allege Ringleader Was Campground Host

By Jordan Nailon / jnailon@chronline.com

An extensive set of Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife case reports recently obtained by The Chronicle through a records request have shed light on the shady backwoods undertakings of a well-orchestrated group of poachers based out of Cowlitz County. 

The reports, which for one suspect alone totaled 223 pages, reveal the extent of the poaching activities that occurred in Southwest Washington and Northwest Oregon dating back to 2015. In total, the WDFW believes more than 100 animals were illegally taken over the course of more than 50 poaching expeditions.

Included in the reports are dozens of photos and videos detailing the illegal take of black bears, cougars, bobcats, deer and elk by seven individuals between August 2015 and February 2017. The vast majority of the hunting took place within the boundaries of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, and hound dogs were illegally deployed for the bulk of the hunts. In many cases, the dogs, owned by Eddy and Joseph Dills, were allowed to tear at the flesh of poached animals as they were dead or dying. Sometimes as many as 11 dogs would join the gruesome fray.

The WDFW says that they expect to recommend additional suspects for charges at a later date with this first wave of reports, which have been turned over to the Skamania County prosecutor, intended to trip up the most egregious and repetitive violators.

While it’s unclear what specific charges will ultimately be brought forth by the prosecutor, the case files provided by the WDFW indicate a laundry list of charges that the department has suggested for the first seven suspects.

Eddy Dills, 57, of Longview, was recommended by the WDFW for 15 counts of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game, 13 counts of unlawful use of dogs to hunt, six counts of waste of fish and wildlife, two counts of unlawful possession of fish and wildlife taken from another state and one count of unlawful hunting of wild animals with the use of dogs.

Joseph Dills, 30, Longview, was recommended by the WDFW police for 28 counts of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game, 28 counts of illegal use of dogs to hunt, 13 counts of waste of fish and wildlife, four counts of unlawful possession of fish and wildlife taken in violation of another state’s laws, one count of unlawful hunt of wild animals and one count of unlawful purchase of a license in the second degree.

William Haynes, 23, Longview, was recommended for 23 counts of unlawful possession of fish and wildlife taken in violation of another state’s laws, one count of unlawful purchase of a license in the second degree, 28 counts of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game, 13 counts of waste of fish and wildlife, 26 counts of unlawful use of dogs to hunt, and four counts of second degree unlawful hunting of big game.

Erik Christian Martin, 23, Longview, was recommended for 23 counts of unlawful possession of fish and wildlife taken in violation of another state’s laws, one count of unlawful purchase of a license in the second degree, four counts of unlawful hunting of wild animals in the second degree, eight counts of unlawful use of dogs to hunt, four counts of waste of fish and wildlife, and 17 counts of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree.

Bryan C. Tretiak, 31, Morton, was recommended for one charge of unlawful hunting of big game in the first degree and one count of the unlawful use of dogs to hunt big game.

Aubri McKenna, 35, Longview, has been recommended by the WDFW for two counts of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree, one count of illegal use of dogs to hunt, one count of waste of fish and wildlife, one count of unlawful purchase of a license in the second degree and one count of the unlawful possession of fish and wildlife taken in violation of another state’s laws.

Finally, Sierra Dills, 17, Longview, was recommended for six counts of unlawful hunting of big game in the second degree, five counts of the unlawful use of dogs to hunt and two counts of waste of fish and wildlife.

Investigators were able to use data retrieved from suspects’ cellphones in order to tie together all of the vast poaching incidents. GPS data mined from the cellular devices allowed WDFW agents to pinpoint the location of most of the incidents where they typically found bones, hair and bullet fragments to confirm the location of the kill.

Additionally, investigators learned that Eddy Dills served as the campground host at Lake Takhlakh in Skamania County for two consecutive summers. Investigators believe that Dills and the rest of the poaching party would use that location as a headquarters of sorts for their summer and early fall poaching expeditions. In a text message from Joseph Dills to Haynes on March 31, 2016, Dills wrote, “My dad is gonna do that camp hosting again this year he’ll be a (sic) at (H)orseshoe or (T)akalak (sic) you ready for that again? All that death and caos? (sic)”

A text reply from Haynes’ cellphone read, “Oh f*** yeah. My dad said he wants to bring his trailer up there too this year.”

In their case reports the WDFW noted that this conversation seems to indicate an intention to illegally hunt within the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in the summer of 2016 while utilizing Eddy Dills’ position with the Hoodoo Recreation Company, which runs Takhlakh Lake Campground, in order to undertake their poaching activities.

Phone calls and emails to Hoodoo Recreation Co. were not returned as of deadline.

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See a followup to this report in the Saturday, Sept. 9 edition of The Chronicle.