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 explained to 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, Oregon, 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.