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Six Men Sentenced Following October '09 Illegal Elk Killings in Cottage Grove Area
01/13/2010
Sergeant Ron Martin
Oregon State Police - Springfield
Fish & Wildlife Division
Office: (541) 726-2536 ext. 206

Photograph links valid for 30 days - Source: Oregon State Police
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Six people involved in the unlawful taking of four bull elk near Cottage Grove in October 2009 pled guilty to numerous wildlife violations in Lane County Circuit Court. The sentence for the person responsible for shooting the elk includes jail time and a lifetime suspension of his hunting privileges.
 
Oregon State Police (OSP) Fish & Wildlife Division troopers began an investigation into the unlawful shooting of four bull elk on October 20, 2009 in the Melrose wildlife management unit south of Cottage Grove. During the late morning hours the four bull elk described as a 3 point, 5 point, 6 point, and a 6x7 point, were shot on private property south of London Road. Immediately following the incident, OSP Senior Troopers Martin Maher and Marshall Maher had contact with area landowners who reported hunters trespassed on private lands to retrieve the poached bull elks which were part of a year-round herd.
 
The investigation identified JOHN K. ATWATER, age 50, from Cottage Grove, as the person responsible for shooting the four bull elk. The elk season was not open for the unit in which the elk were killed. After shooting the elk, ATWATER was assisted by his son and four others in retrieving the elk by trespassing onto several different pieces of private property. Some of the elk were removed after they drove their vehicles onto the property where the elk were killed.
 
During court appearances in late December and early January, the six men pled guilty to several charges related to the investigation. The other men were identified as DUSTIN ATWATER, HOMER RHODES, DAVID PRUITT, BRYAN SHEPARD, and CHRISTOPHER STEVENS. All are from the Cottage Grove and Creswell areas.
 
JOHN ATWATER pled guilty to:
  • Four (4) counts of Unlawful Take of Bull Elk
  • Two (2) counts of Hunting on the Enclosed Lands of Another
  • Two (2) counts of Borrowing a Big Game Tag
 
He was sentenced to:
  • Forty (40) days in the Lane County Jail
  • 24 months probation
  • Ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution to ODFW
  • $6,674 fine
  • Ordered to forfeit his rifle
  • Lifetime suspension of hunting privileges
 
DUSTIN ATWATER, age 26, pled guilty to:
  • Aiding in Game Violation
  • Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree
 
He was sentenced to:
  • Fifteen (15) days in the Lane County Jail
  • 18 months probation
  • Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
  • $892 fine
  • 48 month hunting license suspension
 
DAVID PRUITT, age 78, pled guilty to:
  • Aiding in Game Violation
  • Loaning Big Game Tag
  • Hunting while in violation of Criminal Trespass
 
He was sentenced to:
  • 24 months probation
  • Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
  • $2,304 fine
  • Complete 100 hours of community service
  • 36 month hunting license suspension
 
HOMER RHODES, age 74, pled guilty to:
  • Two (2) counts of Aiding in Game Violation
  • Loaning Big Game Tag
 
He was sentenced to:
  • 24 months probation
  • Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
  • Complete 60 hours of community service
 
CHRISTOPHER STEVENS, age 35, pled guilty to:
  • Aiding in Game Violation
 
He was sentenced to:
  • 24 months probation
  • Ordered to pay $1,500 in restitution to ODFW
  • $1,202 fine
  • Complete 160 hours of community service
  • 36 month hunting license suspension
 
BRYAN SHEPARD, age not available, pled guilty to:
  • Aiding in Game Violation
 
He was sentenced to:
  • 24 months probation
  • Complete 100 hours of community service
  • 24 month hunting license suspension
 
At the time of the incident the unlawfully killed four bull elk were salvaged by the troopers and the meat was taken to the Eugene Mission.