By Vince Devlin
KALISPELL – The last of four young Columbia Falls men charged with poaching deer in the Whitefish area has pleaded guilty to multiple misdemeanor charges in Flathead County Justice Court.
Dillan Erickson was fined $4,820, must pay $2,000 more in restitution to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and lost his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for five years.
He was also sentenced to six months in jail, but the jail sentence was suspended.
FWP said it spent “the last several years” investigating the illegal killing of more than 20 deer in the Whitefish area.
“Wardens weren’t able to prove these individuals were responsible for all of the deer poached in that area, but we have seen a dramatic decrease in illegal activity since making this case,” FWP Warden Capt. Lee Anderson said.
Game wardens said most of the deer were shot at night by poachers using artificial lights and left to rot. The deer were killed primarily in areas near Farm to Market Road, Voerman Road and Dillon Road.
Erickson pleaded guilty to four counts of hunting during a closed season, four counts of waste of a big-game animal and four counts of unlawful possession-transportation. He initially faced 81 charges in the case
Earlier this year, Chase Wilson, Tyler Kellar and Paul West also pleaded guilty in the case. They, and Erickson, were all 19 or 20 years old when they were charged last year.
FWP Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said all together, the four defendants were fined a total of $16,435 and lost their privileges to hunt, trap and fish for a combined 51 years.
Because Montana is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, the four men also lost hunting, trapping and fishing privileges in 42 more states during that period.
Anderson singled out game wardens Chris Crane and Wes Oedekovan, and investigator Brian Sommers, for their work in solving the Whitefish-area poaching case.
“They spent many late nights on patrol and long days examining evidence,” Fraley said. “Their dedication, along with help from the public and a hardworking county attorney’s office, made this case possible.”