Oregon Has Shocking Level of Mule Deer Poaching

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OregonLive has a solid write up on a mule deer study conducted by state wildlife officials over the last five years.

The state study was conducted from Bend to the California border. Of 500 mule deer fitted with radio-collars between July 2005 and last January, 128 died during the research. Of those, poachers killed 19 and hunters legally shot 21. Cougars killed 15 and eight were hit and killed by cars. Of the rest, five succumbed to coyotes, disease claimed five and four died while tangled in fences or from some other accident ... Biologists listed 51 as "cause of death unknown," but poachers could have taken some of those, he said. "Sometimes we just find the radio collar laying out in the sagebrush,"

The article opens with an anonymous "Eastern Oregon businessman" who admits to poaching dozens of deer over his lifetime. Finding such a high rate of poaching kills, over a detailed five year study, begs the question of whether Oregon is an anomaly or typical of most other states.


jim boyd's picture

Not only do I find these

Not only do I find these figures incredibly disturbing, I also find them shocking beyond belief. If I am reading this correctly, way more deer were poached than were taken legally in Oregon in this test period – at least in this area and of the 500 that were tagged. The article states that hunters legally took 21 and there were 19 confirmed poached deer. The article goes on to explain that 51 were listed as “cause of death unknown” and they speculate that poachers took at least SOME of these deer. You would not think that a hunter that took a deer legally would remove and discard the collar – so we can likely discount a theory that some of these 51 were harvested legally… If only 10% of the 51 were poached, that leads back to my original horror filled statement – that more were poached than were taken legally… that would give 21 legal deer and 19 + 5 illegal, for a total of 24 that were taken outside of the law. That is an incredibly shameful statistic and either speaks of wide open spaces that can not be patrolled, a lack of enforcement by game officials – or both…I would likely say also that most of the poaching is done by in state hunters – I think (could be wrong here) that folks that go to all the trouble to come from out of state are hardly going to jeopardize their hunt – and all of that investment – to take a deer illegally. A good analogy of this can be found in a Midwest hunt I did recently – we found a farmer that leased us some small cabins to stay in – but will not lease to locals and he summed it up very well – “you boys spent all that money to come out here, you are not going to screw up my cabins for fear you will not be able to come back”. I think that speaks a lot about out of state hunters, but I might be wrong. Back to the figures – think about what a report like this does to a hunter that is considering Oregon for an out of state hunt – they may well choose a different state based solely on this report. If these figures are true – and I have every reason to believe they are – it is time for Oregon to step up and – using some grass roots ad campaigns, coupled with some tighter enforcement – get these numbers turned around. We have poaching in the south, for sure (I am in SC) – but I would think it is more on the order of 1 in 10 poached – rather than 5 out of 10 – or worse. The article also questions whether or not Oregon would be an anomaly or whether other western states could be as bad… I am sure that other states have some statistics on this – but if they are this bad, I would keep them under my hat! I am not shocked at the 8 that were hit by cars… that seems very reasonable. Cougars and coyotes took another 20, I would assume that some of these were sick or were weakened by the rut when taken… This is a great article and is very thought provoking but is disturbing, at best.

OregonHunter20's picture


I think the studies they are performing are great. 500 is a very fair #. Wolves being shot in eastern Oregon with radio collars on coming from Yellowstone should be proof enough they are here! I would be willing to bet maybe another 10 of those lost were poachers, maybe. I would believe that the rest are wolves! I have spent my last two hunting trips in NW Montana, and seen first hand what it has done to the deer population, we just need to step in before our deer numbers decrease further and investigate the growing wolf numbers!

hawkeye270's picture

Sample size is absolutely key

Sample size is absolutely key in determining if something is statistically significant or not. That is one of the basic foundations of biostatistics and biometry. And if you are trying to extrapolate about mortality of a mule deer population, than the 128 individuals that died is absolutely a small sample size. It might not seem small to the casual on looker but it is. That is not to say that this information is lacking in any way. I do not have all the data and have not run any tests on it of course but what I can tell you is that it is most definitely a small sample size.

CVC's picture

The sample size is 500 and

The sample size is 500 and not 128.  They collared 500 deer which is a sample of the deer herd or in stat terms the population.  I do not know what the deer population is so I had to make some assumptions.  Using a sample size generator and trying to achieve a confidence level of 95% i entered a population of 100,000.  The calculator said I needed 383 for my sample.

So, a sample size of 500 is not a low number.  As I stated earlier, the key besides sample size is how the sample was selected.  To be representative, it has to be random and I doubt that the sample of collared deer was truly random, but it was probably the best they could do and most likely gave a good representation of the population.

I stand by my eariler statement that it is most definitely not a low sample size.

hawkeye270's picture

Those statistics sound about

Those statistics sound about right compared to other studies that I have seen on this subject. Although their sample size is very small, the near 50 / 50  figure is a pretty commonly accepted one. Then when you add the fact that so many animals get shot by legal hunters but can not or are not recovered than you see how much waste there can be. I can not imagine how much better the hunting would be if poaching was just all of a sudden stopped altogether. Poaching would not have to be taken into account in tag allocation and therefore there would be a lot more tags available for law abiding citizens. The amount of animals would increase greatly and presumably so would the number of mature bucks and bulls. Now how do you actually stop it altogether? Well, it is probably just not going to happen. You just have to keep relying on the brave souls like the game warden that lost his life recently to combat the jerks that steal our wildlife.

CVC's picture

The sample size doesn't seem

The sample size doesn't seem small to me.  When dealing with statistics you do not need a very large sample size and it varies depending upon your population.  The question that might be asked is if the sample was truly random or if there was any bias introduced by the way the sample was selected.

I do agree we will never stop poaching, but we need to make sure that the fines and penalties are appropriately high to deter some of those that might consider it.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I kind of see both sides of

I kind of see both sides of this.  As a hunter and conservationist, I am absolutely against poaching.  However, if you have been to some areas of the country that I have been, like parts of West Virginia, Tennessee, etc., you can see why some people do not have a problem with it.  I go for a drive out there and see 100 deer in an evening.  Then, right down the road, you will see a family of 6 living in a run down trailer, and you wonder where thy even get money for food.  If they are using it for their own food source, I can understand.

However, if they are doing it to have bragging rights about a big rack, or because they want to sell parts of the animal, then I have a real problem with it, and they should be prosectued to the full extent of the law.

CVC's picture

While it is possible that the

While it is possible that the businessman is living in a run down trailer, it is not likely that he is or that he is poaching to survive.  He just seems, based on the little information in the story, as someone who believes he is above the law.

As far as the poor, perhaps we should create some kind of program to assist them.  Maybe a way to legally get a doe or multiple doe tags at no cost?  If you are currently receiving government assistance for being a low income family then you can get up to X doe tags at no cost, but all hunting laws and regulations must be followed.  Wonder if any state does this now?

CVC's picture

I do not understand the

I do not understand the mindset of the businessman that he thinks it is okay to poach deer.  I am sure if this guy is a retailer he takes measures to protect his inventory from shop lifters and most likely fully prosecutes those he catches.  I think there are similarities between poachers and shop lifters.

Both are criminals, although a shop lifter is never referred to as a shopper and both affect others with their criminal actions.  Penalties need to be stiff and enforced when it comes to poachers.

ecubackpacker's picture

I would guess it's fairly

I would guess it's fairly typical after talking to game wardens about the problem and any ways to combat it.

Prime example is the businessman who has poached dozens of deer. You know he isn't the only poacher out there. There are plenty of poachers that will never get caught. From what I've learned, most of the poaching happens at the hands of repeat offenders. So, yea, I'd say it's fairly typical.

It sounds like Oregon needs to do something about their cougar population. You hear me, Numbnutz. Go out and shoot a cougar to save a mule deer that way you'll see more deer. LOL