What started with one dead Idaho pronghorn in 2019 turned into a multi-year, multi-state investigation that eventually sentenced three Missouri poachers for killing 12 animals of seven different species.
According to a press release from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game on Sept. 30, 2021, Missouri residents Grifen Whiteside, 21, and Dylan Davidson, 25, each received 15-year hunting license revocations, 10 years of probation, two weeks in jail, and $2,325 in fines. Sydney Wallace, 20, was named an accomplice in the scheme and received a one-year license revocation and a $715 fine. The three were charged with multiple felonies and misdemeanors in Idaho’s Custer and Blaine Counties.
The three were ordered to not hunt, fish, or trap in any state amidst the ongoing investigation. However, Davidson harvested a deer and multiple ducks in Missouri during that time, racking up additional probation violation charges and a lifetime ban on hunting, fishing, and trapping in Idaho. Such a ban is reciprocated by 47 other states as part of the Wildlife Violator Compact, meaning that Davidson will never legally harvest an animal in the United States again. Whiteside and Wallace will have to wait 15 years to do so (unless they all go to Massachusetts or Hawai’i, the only non-signatories to the compact).
Davidson received an additional 30 days in jail, an additional three years in probation, and paid an extra $7,700 in fines and restitution for the violation.
IDFG Conservation Officers John Beer and Malcolm Clemenhagen found the first dead pronghorn killed by these poachers on August 14, 2019, off Pettit Lake Road near Stanley. At the time of the discovery, the original IDFG press release encouraged the public to help turn the poachers in. Citizens Against Poaching offered a reward for any information provided in an anonymous manner. Beer concluded the press release with this statement: “Someone in addition to the poacher knows about this and we’d like to visit with them.”
Shortly after the release published, the CAP hotline started ringing.
“A caller reported they knew the people involved in the crime and personally observed cell phone photographs and video of the suspects illegally shooting even more animals,” the 2021 press release said. “According to a second witness, Whiteside admitted to shooting the pronghorn and that Davidson and Wallace were visiting from Missouri and that he purchased a small caliber .17 HMR for the poaching spree.”
After the IFG officers confirmed the suspects didn’t hold licenses in Idaho, they started coordinating with Missouri Department of Conservation agents to get in touch with the suspects and exercise search warrants. After digging through cell phones, inspecting rifles, flying drones, and dispatching K9 units, the investigation finally yielded a shocking list of species that had fallen victim to the poachers’ behavior: two pronghorn, two red fox, a duck, an osprey, three chipmunks, two ground squirrels, and a Chinook salmon. All animals were killed with the .17 HMR, except for the Chinook which was caught on a rod and reel, Clemenhagen told MeatEater.
These don’t include the 10 deer and 15 other pronghorn they shot toward during the spree, Davidson admitted in a statement he gave to MDC agents, or the deer and ducks he harvested in violation of his probation.
Investigators were amazed at the extent of the damage the three poachers caused, but they were especially appalled by Davidson’s behavior.
“I don’t think he can quit hunting. I think it’s just part of who he is. I think he has to hunt and kill stuff, since he went right back to Missouri and kept hunting when he wasn’t supposed to,” Clemenhagen told MeatEater. “Hopefully, he won’t be hunting in the United States for the rest of his life.”