LA GRANDE, Oregon — David Sanders Jr., 58, appeared before Judge Thomas Powers in Union County Circuit Court on Monday and plead guilty to one count of Unlawful Taking of Wildlife—Unbranded Traps. The State dismissed one count of Unlawful Taking of Wildlife—Special Status Game Mammal in exchange for Sanders’ guilty plea and agreed upon sentence.
Judge Powers sentenced Sanders to the agreed upon negotiation between the parties of 24 months of bench probation, 100 hours of community service, a hunting/trapping license suspension of 36 months and a $7,500 fine.
The charges stemmed from an incident in which an Oregon State Police trooper discovered unbranded traps off of Highway 204, west of Elgin on December 10, 2017 on US Forest Service land in the Umatilla National Forest. The trooper observed and identified Sanders as the individual who had set the traps. The trooper then returned to that location on December 18, 2017 where he discovered that a deceased wolf appeared to have been shot a short distance from the traps.
When officers confronted Sanders, he admitted that he had in fact shot the wolf after he had discovered the animal in his trap. Evidence collected from this incident included the firearm used to shoot the wolf and a photograph of the wolf in the trap before it was killed. Sanders was emphatic that he was attempting to trap bobcats only, not wolves. Sanders cooperated with the investigation when confronted by law enforcement.
Union County District Attorney Kelsie McDaniel made the record clear that the State did not view this case as a wolf poaching case but rather an illegal trapping case. It was clear from the investigation that the defendant was not out to illegally take a wolf but instead made a poor decision with respect to his trapping operation. Sanders had a previous violation for unbranded trapping out of Baker County Justice Court in 2016.
McDaniel said that had Sanders called authorities when he first discovered the wolf in his trap, he would not have been charged with any criminal conduct. “This case highlights the fact that the problem with wolves is not going away. We are seeing more and more incidents of wolf predation and human interaction in Union County. This issue has long been a challenge for local ranchers, and with the number of wolves in the area more visible, people engaging in recreation are having dangerous and accidental encounters as well,” McDaniel said.