There is an on-going investigation of illegal poaching in the Okanogan area. In November of 2012 a headless deer was found west of Okanogan near Loup Loup Pass. Six weeks later, a pair of dead deer were found on the East side of Pogue mountain by a golf course just north of Okanogan. One of the heads was removed the other carcass was not approached. On January 7th of 2013 another headless deer was found just South of Okanogan off the B&O north road. Department Wildlife and Fish officials collected DNA samples from all of the carcasses.
It became obvious that someone or a group of people were killing bucks for fun or their racks alone. Okanogan county put out a press release asking to exchange information for $1000. Tips began pouring in.
24 year old Garret Elsberg, a Colville tribal member, was spotlit when trusted informants shared pictures from his Facebook page with Elsberg posing with deer heads.
When officers investigated his Facebook page they found more images of bucks as well as conversation insinuating that the bucks had been shot at night and out of season. They also found he was bragging that he had killed with a 400 yard shot, which would require a rifle. That is problematic for Elsberg because he is not allowed to have firearms due to a prior violence conviction.
Department Fish and Wildlife wardens recovered DNA from a blanket found at Elsberg's smokeshop after a warrant was served. The DNA was a match for the headless bucks found earlier in the year.
If convicted Elsberg faces a substantial fine of $66,000 at the price of $6,000 per poached buck found at the scene. The Okanogan Superior Court Clerk verified that Elsberg's trial was set for Tuesday, January 7th 2014. KOZI will keep you posted on the latest happenings.