A dozen members of a suspected poaching ring in the Pacific Northwest are facing charges for killing hundreds of animals illegally just for the “thrill” of it, officials in Oregon announced this week.
Authorities said the accused poachers killed animals including deer, elk, bobcats, bears and cougars in loosely organized operations, then shared photos of themselves on social media dappled with animal blood or posing with animal heads. Some reportedly referred to themselves as the “kill ’em all boys.” They allegedly left many of the animal carcasses to rot in the woods.
“A part of it was the thrill of the kill,” Lt. Tim Schwartz, from the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division, told CNN. He said social media exposure and a desire for attention partly fueled the bloodlust as the members bragged about their kills.
“For some of these people, it was kind of a demented social club,” Oregon State Patrol trooper Craig Gunderson told The Seattle Times. “For some, it was about ego and bravado — who could kill the biggest, the most.”
Now their social media posts will be used as evidence against them.
The suspects face a total of 200 charges that could result in fines or jail time ― including waste of wildlife, hunting with an artificial light, use of dogs or bait to hunt, and aiding or sharing in a wildlife violation. Though the animals they’re accused of killing weren’t necessarily protected, they were allegedly hunted out of season or using illegal methods.
The case is notorious both for the number of people involved and the number of animals they killed.
“I’m completely disgusted,” Mike Cenci of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told Fox-12 News last year. “These people are wholesale natural resource murderers.”
Oregon State Police originally launched an investigation into the ring in 2016 after game wardens found decapitated deer. Officials set up surveillance cameras and used the photos to track a truck. After seizing the suspects’ cellphones, authorities found photos, videos and text messages that led to some 20 kill sites and other poachers, investigators said.