A Pierce County, Washington man will have an arraignment hearing in an Okanogan County court before April is over on nearly 40 counts of illegal baiting and black bear killing over the past two years.
James L. Erickson, 52, and potentially his family members, would bait bears within close proximity of his cabin in the upper Methow Valley where they would shoot them from the comfort of their chairs, according to Northwest Sportsman magazine.
In total, Erickson is facing the following charges:
- 34 counts of baiting (which has been illegal since 1996 when it was outlawed by a statewide initiative),
- four counts of unlawful big game hunting in the second degree,
- one count of unlawful transport,
- second degree spotlighting,
- third-degree possession of stolen property (neighbors trail cam put in place to find out who was cutting their gates),
- possession of a body-gripping trap,
- and possession of a duplicate tag.
Evidence against Erickson came from pages from a diary and hundreds upon hundreds of photos recovered from trail cams and computers. On Friday, April 20th, Erickson still had photographs of himself posing with dead bears posted on Facebook.
Erickson is believed to have illegally killed or hunted bears with the aid of bait on Sept. 3, 2011, Sept. 18, 2010, Aug. 6, 2010 and twice in 2008, according to probable cause documents.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) seized Erickson’s .338 Winchester with attached 4×16 Nikon Monarch scope and his blue 2007 Chevrolet Suburban. The items are believed to be involved in the killing and transportation of the illegally harvested bear to a Westside butcher.
When contacted, Erickson’s attorney downplayed the charges saying the WDFW is making a mountain of a mole hill, according to Northwest Sportsman. He will enter a not guilty plea for Erickson on April 30 at the pro forma hearing. The attorney said the case will end up debating the legality of leaving food out that wildlife happens to come upon and eat.
The state has been monitoring Erickson and the happenings at his cabin for the past six and a half years. Sgt. James Brown of the WDFW said citizens have been tipping the officer off for years that the camp had “a revolving door of participants, all western Washington residents, who used the camp as a basis of operations to commit big game violations, allegedly in and out of season,” according to Sgt. Brown.
A plethora of evidence has surfaced against Erickson. Under Washington state law, baiting is a gross misdemeanor. Erickson faces fines and getting his hunting license revoked for up to five years.
Photo: alh1 (flickr)