Authorities made an arrest of two poachers for decapitating sheep in Oregon. The suspects are accused of shooting and beheading a pair of Bighorn sheep along Interstate 84 near Biggs Junction, Fox News reports. One of the men was found near the animals and another was found several hours later after witnesses alerted authorities to his whereabouts.
Bighorn sheep are a protected species in the state. In order to hunt this game, hunters must win a tag in a lottery.
One of the men arrested for decapitating the sheep was hiding in close proximity to them before he was detained by authorities. Police report that the suspect was inside a suspicious vehicle and the other managed to temporarily flee the scene.
Police arrested 32-year-old Justin M. Samora, of Layton, Utah, and 37-year-old Cody J. Plagmann, of Albany, Oregon.
I-84 driver spots man in brazen killing of bighorn sheep beside freeway, calls police - https://t.co/LhhxlOlWuT
— ODFW (@ODFW) April 5, 2016
According to the Oregonian, there are roughly 5,000 Bighorn sheep in the state. Last year, 21,805 hunters entered a lottery for 96 tags. Each tag allowed a hunter to kill one of the animals.
"It's an outrage that someone would poach a Bighorn sheep, when hunters can wait their whole life and still never get the opportunity to hunt this iconic species," said Jeremy Thompson, an Oregon Fish & Wildlife biologist. "This herd is also a popular viewing attraction for people driving along I-84 and has been there since 1993."
State police received a call around 9:45 a.m. on Sunday about a man who was seen bending over a dead big-game animal along I-84 at milepost 119, east of Biggs Junction in Gilliam County.
When authorities arrived, they found Justin M. Samora. He was questioned before troopers arrested him on the charge of aiding in a game violation. It was while troopers were talking to Samora that some passing motorists stopped to alert them of a man they spotted hiding in the bushes a little to the west. Soon after they were informed of the other suspect, police noticed two sheep with decapitated heads close by. Lt. Bill Fugate said the animals were intact other than the severed heads, which indicated that the sheep were poached so their heads could be mounted on a wall as trophies.
"It appears they left the bodies behind," Fugate said. "They took only the heads."
Authorities launched a six-hour search for the second suspect and found Cody J. Plagmann around 4 p.m. He had retreated to some railroad tracks about two miles away. Plagmann was arrested and charged with taking or possessing a Bighorn sheep, wasting of a game animal, and hunting on another's cultivated or enclosed land.
Two arrested for beheading bighorn sheep along I-84 in Oregon https://t.co/JWWZDBatBh pic.twitter.com/Z99mYNDB5T
— KGW News (@KGWNews) April 4, 2016
Defenders of Wildlife provides facts about Bighorn sheep on its website, saying the population of the species was up to two million in North America at the beginning of the 19th century. Today, there are less than 70,000.
Bighorn sheep once thrived throughout western North America but were wiped out in the 1920s from Oregon, Washington, Texas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and part of Mexico. Their current populations have been reintroduced through transplanting sheep from healthy populations into unoccupied but ideal locations to serve as their habitat.
The biggest threat to Bighorn sheep populations today is from "hunting, loss of food from livestock, grazing, and disease from domestic livestock," according to the website.
Police are asking the public for help in this case. Anyone witnessed the incident or has other information about the two men who decapitated the sheep should call the Dalles Area OSP Command at 541-296-9646.
[Image via Tom Reichner/Shutterstock]