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Thursday, Mar 21 2013 04:39 PM

Elk poacher pleads no contest to three charges

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    By California Department of Fish and Wildlife

    A hunter has pleaded no contest to three charges in connection with poaching an elk south of Tehachapi last summer.

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BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

A hunter -- and convicted felon -- who illegally killed an elk cow on property south of Tehachapi and then left the carcass to rot has pleaded no contest to a felony and two misdemeanors.

Kong Her is scheduled to be sentenced April 9 after entering pleas earlier this month to possession of a gun by a felon, possessing a creature unlawfully taken and unlawfully taking an animal, according to Kern County Superior Court records.

The court reports say Her shot and killed a pregnant elk, deboned the animal and placed between 60 to 70 pounds of its meat in a trash bag on June 2, 2012. He tried carrying the meat up from the canyon where he shot the animal, but then decided to just leave it behind.

Two California Department of Fish and Wildlife game wardens responded to the area in Wilderness Unlimited where the elk was shot after receiving a call from hunters who witnessed the killing, the reports said. The hunters told the wardens they were taking a break from hunting pigs and were watching a group of elk when they heard a gunshot and saw an elk begin to limp.

There was at least one more shot, and the elk fell dead, the hunters told the wardens. They said they then watched as a man later identified as Her deboned the animal.

Andrew Halverson, one of the wardens, said Wednesday that Wilderness Unlimited is a hunting club where one pays to hunt different game, but where elk are never allowed to be killed. There was no open season on elk in any part of California on June 2.

Halverson and the other warden questioned Her when they saw him walking back to his car with a male juvenile, the reports said. There was blood on Her's arms, plus the covering of a knife he was holding.

They asked Her if he'd had any luck hunting, and he told them he shot a pig earlier but couldn't find it, the reports said. They asked if he shot anything else and Her replied, "not really."

Her eventually admitted to shooting the elk, and led deputies to the area where he left the bag filled with meat, the rest of the carcass and the elk fetus. Vultures and crows were already circling the area.

"He meant to take the meat, but it was too heavy to carry," Halverson said.

The investigation later revealed that Her was in illegal possession of a gun since he was convicted of a felony in May 1997. Plus, he was on probation for deer poaching in Shasta County in March.

It's likely Her wouldn't have been caught if the hunters hadn't alerted the wardens.

"I really appreciate those two hunters," Halverson said. "It's people like that that help us make great cases and catch the poachers."

Richard Ramos, listed in court documents as Her's attorney, could not be reached for comment.

Gene Thome, owner of Bear Mountain Sports and a longtime hunter, said he doesn't believe poaching is that common in Kern County, and no responsible hunter would ever engage in that activity.

Most hunters go through 10 hours of training just to get a license, Thome said. There's no excuse for not knowing hunting regulations because the information is readily available, he said.

Two years ago he alerted a game warden after witnessing a man kill a doe on Piute Mountain. He said he and other hunters are more than willing to alert the authorities in situations like that.

"(Poaching) gives legitimate hunters a bad name," Thome said.

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