Four Columbia Falls Men Charged with Poaching Deer

By Beacon Staff

Four young adults from Columbia Falls face poaching charges related to a string of poaching incidents near Whitefish over the past two years.

Wardens with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks charged Dillan Erickson, 19, Paul West, 19, Tyler Kellar, 19, and Chase Wilson, 20, with several wildlife violations in late September, the agency announced last week. The charges included waste of game, using artificial light to hunt big game, unlawful possession of big game animals and hunting during a closed season.

The individuals have pled not guilty and the case will proceed in the coming months.

Last fall FWP officers began investigating the illegal shooting of at least 19 deer. The deer were shot and left to rot and some were missing their antlers. Most of the shootings occurred at night on Farm to Market Road, Twin Bridges Road, Voerman Road, Monegan Road and other back roads in the Whitefish area, according to FWP.

FWP is also seeking information related to a white-tailed buck recently shot and left off Dillon Road east of Whitefish on Nov. 5, around 5:30 pm.

The shooter left the scene before wardens arrived and left the deer in the field. The suspect was driving a vehicle described as a dark colored pickup truck with large tires, brush guard and top bar.

Wardens urge anyone with any information to call 1-800-TIPMONT. A person that gives information that leads to a conviction may be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.

Poaching Problems Persist
More than 1,000 poaching incidents have been reported across Montana so far this year involving deer, antelope, moose and other wildlife.

“This has been a bad year,” said Brian Shinn, FWP’s coordinator for TIP-MONT, the state’s toll-free 24-hour hotline for poaching and other wildlife violations. “There seems to be more reported cases as of this year.”

Shinn said poaching problems spread across the state and commonly occur near roads where people are shooting wildlife and leaving the animals untouched to rot.

“They’re not taking meat. It’s not for subsistence. They’re not even taking a back strap,” he said of poachers.

Last week state wildlife officials discovered an illegally shot and killed cow moose in the Hyalite area south of Bozeman. Wardens determined the moose had been shot twice, likely from the road. Moose hunting season did not open until Sept. 15.

The number of calls coming into TIP-MONT increases heavily during hunting season thanks to more sportsmen being afield, Shinn said, and thanks to callers, game wardens are able to investigate and hopefully catch those who are breaking the law. Callers who provide information about poaching incidents may remain anonymous and be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000. Last year, $18,000 went out to callers.

“Without the public, we couldn’t do it,” Shinn said.

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