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Know the West

A poacher's menagerie

Highlights from wildlife busts on the Western front

  • An Anchorage, Alaska, businessman pleaded guilty to selling more than 100 raw seal oosiks (penis bones) in 2007.
  • Forest Service officials found 150 80-pound bales of moss that had been plucked illegally from Washington’s Mount St. Helens National Monument in 2006.
  • A poacher was arrested for the fourth time in 2009 for stealing thousands of dollars worth of spiny lobster from off the California coast. Much of the catch is shipped to Asia.
  • In 2009, undercover federal agents caught an Alaska resident illegally killing at least 56 sea otters, sea lions and harbor seals and exporting their pelts.
  • Two Oregon men pleaded guilty in 2010 to multiple counts of swiping abalone from the Oregon coast and selling their shells and meat all over the country.
  • Two men were caught using GPS to track and poach chanterelles and other mushrooms near Santa Barbara in 2006. They carried a ledger detailing $10,000 in recent sales, but had been seen working the woods for years.
  • Nine people were indicted in 2006 for smuggling snakes and venomous gila monsters out of Arizona.
  • In 2007 and again in 2008, separate poaching rings were caught selling thousands of sleek, silvery baby leopard sharks from San Francisco to San Diego to markets around the world as pets.
  • Poachers stole millions of dollars worth of geoduck clams from Washington’s Puget Sound between 1996 and 2009, selling them in California, New York, Canada, Hong Kong and China.
  • A man pleaded guilty in federal court in 2000 to stealing $200,000 worth of bear grass from national forest in Oregon; he planned to ship it overseas.
  • In 2010, undercover Washington state agents charged a Japanese psychiatrist with trying to smuggle black bear gallbladders out of the country. He'd previously been caught carrying 18 gallbladders and sneaking hummingbirds out of Ohio.
  • A seafood broker pleaded guilty in 2007 to poaching $70,000 worth of salmon off the Washington coast and doctoring records to ship it to Israel and the Republic of Georgia.
  • In 2007, Washington forest rangers found several bigleaf maples that had been felled and dismembered to feed a global black market in wood for guitars and other instruments.
  • Oregon state police broke separate rings of sturgeon poachers in 2003 and 2005. The poachers were killing the fish for their eggs to sell as caviar to immigrant communities here and abroad.
  • Two men pleaded guilty to trafficking charges in 2009 after illegally digging up at least 17 saguaro cacti in Arizona -- two of them from a national park -- for sale on the black market.
  • In 2006, two men were caught selling more than 2,500 pieces of whale baleen and other marine mammal parts from Alaska.
  • A Utah man was sentenced in federal court in 2007 for illegally taking 124 Nevada bobcats. The pelts were seized in the process of being shipped to Europe.
  • In 2006 and in 2009, separate people were prosecuted for killing and selling Arizona bald eagles and their feathers.
  • Wildlife officials caught a man in 2005 who was keeping hundreds of ridge rattlesnakes, banded rock rattlesnakes and twin-spotted rattlesnakes he'd gathered illegally in Arizona for sale on the black market.