SEATTLE — Today the Attorney General’s Office filed 32 criminal charges against Jason Smith of North Bend for illegal hunting. The charges, which include two felonies, 27 gross misdemeanors and three misdemeanors, allege that Smith unlawfully baited and killed bears and elk, and unlawfully hunted deer.
The criminal charges stem from Smith’s alleged illegal hunting of 13 animals over two seasons. Charging documents allege that Smith killed bears and elk in 2021 at his home, and in 2022 not far from it, by illegally baiting the animals, and without proper tags. One of the bears was allegedly a mother with cubs. He also allegedly hunted during closed seasons,hunted over the bag limit, retrieved animals from private property without permission and wasted wildlife.
If convicted, Smith faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine for each of the two felony charges of first-degree unlawful hunting of big game. The 27 gross misdemeanor charges of second-degree unlawful hunting of big game, unlawful black bear hunting and unlawful waste of wildlife each carry a penalty of up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. Smith faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for three misdemeanor charges of unlawful hunting or retrieving wildlife from private property.
Assistant Attorneys General Courtney Blackburn and Scott Halloran, and paralegal Nerissa Tigner and legal assistant Sydney Stern are handling the case for Washington.
Below, the affidavit of probable cause filed with the court is included in its entirety.
The information contained in the affidavit of probable cause are only allegations. A person is presumed innocent unless and until he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The Attorney General’s Environmental Protection Division is prosecuting the case. The Attorney General’s Office filed these charges in King County Superior Court. The Attorney General’s Office does not have authority to initiate criminal investigations, unless it receives and accepts a referral from a county prosecutor or the governor. The Attorney General’s Office accepted a referral from the King County Prosecuting Attorney in this case.
The Rules of Professional Conduct govern what a prosecutor in a criminal case may say publicly before trial. As the prosecutor in this criminal matter, the Attorney General’s Office and its representatives are prohibited from making public statements beyond the narrow scope allowed by the Rules of Professional Conduct. The office will make every effort to be transparent with the public, while upholding its responsibilities as a criminal prosecutor.
AFFIDAVIT FOR DETERMINATION OF PROBABLE CAUSE
The undersigned certifies that I am an Assistant Attorney General for Washington, and make this affidavit in that capacity; that criminal charges have been filed against the above named defendant in this case, and that I believe probable cause exists for the arrest of the defendant on the charges because of the following facts and circumstances. This information is not based upon any independent or personal knowledge of these events, unless specifically noted.
The following is based on reports, statements, and items provided by law enforcement, investigators, regulatory agencies, experts, and public information and not on personal knowledge. The purpose of this affidavit is to establish probable cause for the crime charged, not to summarize the entire case.
The Washington State Legislature has authorized and delegated responsibility to the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to preserve, protect, and manage wildlife in the State. RCW 77.04.012. As such, WDFW regulates the time, place, and manner of hunting in Washington. WDFW sets seasons and harvest rules every year for hunting deer, elk, bear, and other animals. Generally, there is an “early” and “late” season for hunting deer and elk. Within each of these seasons, there are days set aside for archery hunting, muzzleloader hunting, and modern hunting. Because archery is a more technical form of hunting, archery hunters may also hunt with a bow and arrow during muzzleloader and modern hunting times. Similarly, muzzleloader hunters may hunt with a muzzleloader during modern hunting times. WDFW also sets hunting hours each season. Generally, they are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. Hunters must purchase a tag prior to hunting. Additionally, WDFW has divided Washington State into various Game Management Units (GMUs). Washington Administrative Code (WAC) Chapter 220-410 details boundary descriptions for each GMU. North Bend, where all of the incidents in this case took place, is located King County and in GMU 460.
State law and WDFW regulations set a number of conditions that must be met prior to, during, and after hunting animals. Applicable conditions in this case are:
- Hunters are required to purchase tags prior to hunting for an animal and immediately place them on dead animals (WAC 220-413-020).
- Hunters cannot hunt at night (WAC 220-413-060(2)(a)).
- Hunters may only hunt during designated seasons (WAC 220-415-020, WAC 220‑415-050).
- Hunters must abide by bag limits for the specified animal and cannot hunt in excess of the allowable limit (WAC 220-415-020, WAC 415-050).
- Hunters must mail in the premolar tooth located behind the canine tooth of the upper jaw of any killed black bears to WDFW (WAC 220-415-090).
- Hunters cannot bait black bears (WAC 220-415-090).
- Hunters can only use 10 gallons of bait to hunt for elk (WAC 220-414-030).
- Hunters cannot trespass onto property to hunt and retrieve wildlife (RCW 77.15.435).
- Hunters must not waste a wildlife carcass (RCW 77.15.170).
Hunters sometimes use GPS tracking applications to assist in hunting. Mr. Smith uses a GPS tracking application called onXmaps. OnXmaps is an app that allows users to mark and label trails. It is often used by hunters to see where they have already tracked for an animal, and to see where property lines are so as to avoid trespassing.
Fall 2021 Violations
On September 11, 2021, Mr. Smith posted two photos of a dead bull elk on his Instagram account, along with a description of how he tracked and killed the elk with a bow and arrow. OnXmaps data shows that Mr. Smith was in North Bend at the time, and that he created two waypoints on onXmaps, one labeled “smell elk,” and one labeled “elk sign.” A warrant return for Mr. Smith’s iPhone showed that several images of the dead elk were taken around 7 p.m. that day on a vacant lot in North Bend. Mr. Smith messaged two Instagram users about killing the elk on that day. However, according to WDFW records, Mr. Smith did not purchase an elk tag until October 1.
In the evening of September 25, Mr. Smith took a video at his residence in North Bend of two cubs and a female bear feeding on about 50 gallons of apples. The apples had been placed in a substantial pile next to Mr. Smith’s driveway, just steps from his front porch. Within 20 minutes of taking the video, Mr. Smith took another photo of a bloodied leaf and his GPS tracking application indicated that he had begun tracking an animal. Shortly after, Mr. Smith took photos and videos of bear cubs up in trees. The videos depict the bear cubs calling out in distress. Mr. Smith marked the location of the tree on his onXmaps as “cubs treed.”
The following day, on September 26, Mr. Smith posted on Instagram about the previous evening. He wrote that he “had an opportunity at a great black bear with [his] bow.” He then described how he made a “great shot that hit hard and penetrated deep.” He tracked the bear for two and a half hours that evening, but gave up. OnXmaps tracking showed that Smith hunted for the wounded bear over three different properties in North Bend. Mr. Smith then wrote on Instagram that he returned that day, September 26, and after tracking the blood trail for over six hours, he could not find the bear.
Around 11 p.m. on September 29, Mr. Smith took a photo of another bear eating from the same pile of apples located outside of his house in North Bend. The following morning, he photographed a dead bear that was located about 38 yards from the bait pile. Mr. Smith then posted a photo of himself with the dead bear on Instagram. He, again, included a caption stating:
“I wanted this bear bad especially after my failed attempt a week prior. Persistence in the mountains pays. If you quit, the hunt is over. I love that there are no participation trophies in the mountains. You get what you earn. Nothing more, nothing less.”
Mr. Smith then messaged with three individuals about killing the bear, telling one that he shot it the night before (September 29) and recovered it that morning (September 30). Mr. Smith did not submit the bear’s premolar tooth to WDFW.
Around 8 p.m. on October 1, Mr. Smith took a photo of blood on a leaf. Legal hunting hours had ended at 5:20 p.m. that evening. The following morning, Smith photographed a dead bear that was different from the one he killed on September 29. The metadata from the photo shows that the bear was located 24 yards from the bait pile outside of his house. He then took a series of photos of himself with the dead bear. Mr. Smith messaged another Instagram user that he shot the bear the evening prior (October 1) and found the bear 30 yards from where he shot it. Based on his statements, he likely shot the bear 28 yards from the bait pile. Almost a week later, on October 7, Mr. Smith posted a photo of that bear skinned. Mr. Smith never submitted this bear’s premolar tooth to WDFW.
On October 29, Mr. Smith posted a photo of himself with a dead deer buck on Instagram, along with a post detailing his attempts to kill a buck a week prior but failing to do so. Between 9:29 a.m. and 9:46 a.m., Mr. Smith texted four people “big buck down.” However, Mr. Smith did not purchase a deer tag until 9:39 a.m. on October 29, but the photo of the dead buck was taken at 10:02 a.m., indicating that Mr. Smith likely killed the buck, purchased the tag, and then returned for a photo.
On November 1, Mr. Smith took a photo of a dead buck located about 50 yards from the bait pile at his house in North Bend. The photo depicts a tag on the deer, however, Mr. Smith already used his deer tag on October 29, indicating that this tag was likely not a permissible tag. Regardless, the limit for deer hunting each year is one deer. Further, deer season closed in the area on October 31.
Two weeks later, on November 14, Mr. Smith took another photo of himself with a dead buck in North Bend. Mr. Smith also had created a waypoint on his onXmaps account labeled “buck,” with the track leading from two private properties in North Bend. This was the third deer that Mr. Smith harvested in 2021. Mr. Smith did not possess the required tags required to hunt deer, as he should have used his single allowed harvest of deer on October 29, 2021. Additionally, as mentioned above, deer season was closed in the area at this time.
On December 5, Mr. Smith took a photo of a dead deer on private property in North Bend. Although late archery season was open for deer hunting on December 5, Mr. Smith did not possess the required tags to hunt deer at this time, and, as this was his fourth deer killed in 2021, Mr. Smith exceeded the bag limit of one deer per year.
Fall 2022 Violations
On September 10, 2022, the warrant return for Mr. Smith’s iPhone showed that he took a photo with a large elk carcass on the property of [redacted]. [Redacted] spoke to an officer and said that she had issues with people trespassing and poaching on her property, and confirmed that Jason Smith did not have permission to hunt on it. [Redacted] further stated she had given permission to someone named Lee to hunt on her property on September 10, 2022. After Lee hunted, he indicated to [redacted] that there was a fresh dead elk that he came across with its head cut off, as well as one of the quarters and the backstrap. [Redacted] reported this to WDFW. On October 6, WDFW Officer Moszeter investigated the incident and found an elk carcass with several meat bags on [redacted] property. GPS data was used to determine that Mr. Smith’s photo was taken 12 yards from where Officer Moszeter found the dead elk. Although Mr. Smith had proper licensing to hunt elk on September 10, he did not have permission to be on [redacted] property and he failed to retrieve edible portions of big game, and instead left it wasted on the property.
On October 16, Mr. Smith took a video of several elk feeding on two huge mounds of apples that clearly exceed 10 gallons, the legal bait limit. One of the piles had spilled over from a trailer, and the other pile was located about 10 yards from the trailer. One of the elk in the video was a bull elk. On that day, hunting hours ended at 7:05 p.m., thirty minutes after the sun set. At 8:06 p.m., Mr. Smith took a photo of the same bull elk dead. OnXmaps data further showed that Mr. Smith trespassed onto Melody and David McMasters’ property in North Bend while tracking the elk. In the morning of October 17, Mr. Smith took a photo of himself with the dead bull elk. On October 16, Mr. Smith only had a license and tag for the general archery season, which ran from September 10-22.
Later in the evening of October 17, Mr. Smith took a video of a mound of apples in and around the same trailer. In the video, a bear can be seen approaching the bait pile. Mr. Smith also took a video of the bear eating next to the pile of apples. The next morning, Mr. Smith took a photo of a dead bear. Mr. Smith’s onXmaps data shows that he tracked blood onto the McMasters’ property in North Bend, and then marked a location with a bear icon on the McMasters’ property. The dead bear was located within 200 yards of the pile of apples, and roughly 162 feet into the McMasters’ property. Mr. Smith, again, did not submit a premolar tooth. On October 18, Mr. Smith posted photos of the dead bear on Instagram as well as a post on hunting and tracking bears.
Two days later, in the evening of October 19, Mr. Smith took a video of himself observing a herd of elk feeding from the bait pile. The video is a minute and a half long. The video depicts Mr. Smith holding a bow and arrow, with the arrow pointed at the elk ready to fire.
In summary, Mr. Smith hunted three bears, four deer, and an elk in 2021, killing and taking photos of and with all but one of the bears. The three bears were hunted over the course of eight days using an estimated 50 gallon pile of apples as bait. In 2022, Mr. Smith hunted and killed three elk and one black bear. The bear and two of the elk were hunted over the course of three days, again using a several dozen gallons pile of apples as bait. In addition to illegally baiting animals, Mr. Smith hunted without proper tags, hunted during closed seasons, hunted over the bag limit, failed to submit bear premolars, retrieved animals from private property without permission, and wasted wildlife.
State’s Motion to Set Conditions of Release – The State moves the Court to order the defendant to not hunt during the pendency of this case. The State further moves the Court to order the defendant to have no criminal law violations.
Based upon a review of the database maintained by state and federal agencies, the State’s understanding of the defendant’s criminal history is set forth in Appendix A, attached hereto and incorporated herein by reference.
I certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of Washington that the foregoing is true and correct.
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