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Prosecutor awarded for wildlife cases

by: Darryl Swan, Deputy District Attorney Dale Anderson was given the 2007 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year award by the Oregon Hunter’s Association Columbia County Chapter. There is a chance the award could carry Anderson’s name in the future.

With 25 years experience as a prosecuting attorney, Dale Anderson has heard a wild tale or two.

And beyond the landscape of burglars, sex offenders and violent criminals, Anderson now carries the mantle of resident expert on wildlife crime for the Columbia County District Attorney's Office.

Now, there is the chance his name could stand out as the standard other prosecutors of wildlife crime statewide to aspire to, depending on whether the local Columbia County chapter of the Oregon Hunters Association has its say.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, Anderson received the local OHA chapter's inaugural award as the 2007 Prosecutor of the Year in Oregon in the area of wildlife crime. The local chapter is now lobbying the state OHA headquarters in Medford to have the award carry Anderson's name.

Wildlife crime is an elusive specialty to master. Unlike other criminal acts that are spelled out in relatively black-and-white terms in the Oregon criminal code, wildlife crime prosecutions are their own animal, so to speak.

'Wildlife crimes are kind of their own separate little niche,' Anderson said.

The governing rules are largely found in the annual book of regulations published by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Jurisdictional boundaries consist of hunting units that transcend county lines. The deep woods seldom cough up eyewitnesses to catch poachers and unlicensed hunters in the act, instead forcing the reliance on nontraditional investigatory and enforcement techniques.

'There's a lot of woods out there, and there aren't a lot of police officers who are policing them,' Anderson said, adding that law enforcement relies heavily on other hunters to call in game violations.

Anderson pursues hunting violators, especially poachers, with a vigor intended to give pause to anyone thinking about abusing the system. For instance, game regulations call for an $800 fine for the illegal killing of a deer, or $1,500 for illegally taking an elk.

Illegally taking non-wildlife property valued at $750 or greater equates to felony theft, and Anderson pursues penalties for deer or poaching offenses under that same philosophy.

'I've had some success with that,' he said.

He can seek seizure of guns, equipment and animal parts, and in some cases has been successful in having hunting licenses revoked for life.

Oregon State Police Officers Luther Schwartz and Robin May run wildlife enforcement locally, including the orchestration of sting operations such as using stuffed big game as decoys to catch would-be poachers and hunting violators.

Both are OHA members, and were largely responsible for nominating Anderson for the OHA award.

'We've been talking about doing something like this for a long time,' May said. 'We kind of threw it out there, and our chapter thought it was a great idea.'