Thursday, May 31, 2018

On rural crime involving flora and fauna

Two stories about distinctly rural crimes--or more precisely, wilderness crime--have caught my attention in the past few weeks.  The first is about poachers in the Pacific Northwest, covered by The Seattle Times here and the Washington Post here.  A quote from Kyle Swenson's story in the Post highlights the role that technology played in finding the poachers:
It started when state officials wanted answers about the headless deer turning up in the Oregon wilderness east of Mount Hood. 
“Nearly every year, it seems we have deer showing up minus their heads at the end of seasons,” Craig Gunderson, a senior trooper with the Oregon State Patrol, recently told the Seattle Times. Authorities believed the mutilated animals might be the work of poachers, so in November 2016 they fixed motion-triggered cameras in the national forest near The Dalles, Ore., smack on the Washington state line. 
The footage troopers caught would prove to be the first clue to uncovering what officials now say was a loosely linked poaching ring responsible for the illegal brutal slaughter of hundreds of animals in Washington and Oregon. The sheer size of the animal body count involved has shocked wildlife officials, in part because of the wantonness driving the rampant killing.
Also in evidence against the poachers are cell phone videos and photos the poachers took of their illegal activities, including the use of dogs and spotlights to startle the animals, including bears.  That's the fauna story.

The second story involves flora, succulents found on the California coast.  The Voice of Monterey Bay published this story a few weeks ago, "The Case of the Stolen Succulents."   Here's an excerpt that refers to a major bust of plant poachers near Big Sur, reported by Kathryn McKenzie. 
It was the first such incident of large-scale plant poaching reported in Monterey County, but comes hard on the heels of arrests in thefts involving plants in Humboldt and Mendocino counties, specifically involving a species called Dudleya farinosa, commonly known as bluff lettuce or powdery liveforever. Plant thieves were stripping the succulents from the coastal bluffs and smuggling them to Korea and China, where the plants reportedly sell for as much as $50 each.
This story was drawn to my attention by the daily California Sun e-newsletter, which I highly recommend. 

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