CHRISTMAS VALLEY, Ore. — A Christmas Valley man intentionally ran down a group of antelope with his truck and later admitted that he did it "because he hates pronghorn," according to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW). The agency called it the latest in a series of poaching "thrill kills" in the state.
Fish & Wildlife troopers from Oregon State Police responded to the grisly scene on April 26, along Fossil Lake Road near Christmas Valley. They found the bodies of five does and one buck pronghorn antelope strewn along the roadway, the buck's horns removed.
"One doe was eviscerated with a knife — her unborn fawn removed and placed on its mother’s carcass," ODFW said. "May is fawning season for antelope in Oregon. Any pregnant does would have given birth within a month had they not been killed."
ODFW said that that the troopers responded to a tip, when a caller reported hearing a man bragging about running down the antelope before leaving the scene "to get a hamburger" and returning to take the buck's horns as a trophy.
Troopers identified the suspected poacher as 48-year-old Michael Scott Phillips. Serving a search warrant at the end of May, investigators found the horns and other evidence that linked Phillips to the crime.
"Phillips admitted that he accelerated to more than 60 mph to hit the antelope, and confirmed they were bunched together in the road," ODFW said. "There was no evidence that he slowed down or tried to stop before striking the animals."
Troopers took Phillips into custody on May 21, lodging him in the Lake County Jail on charges for aggravated animal abuse, take/possession of antelope, and waste of a game mammal.
“Not all poaching involves the use of a firearm,” said Sgt. Lowell Lea with OSP. “This is not the first case of people poaching with a vehicle. And poaching takes opportunities away from hunters and others.”
ODFW says that there have been a number of poaching incidents in the state over the past several months. In May, three Oregon men were cited for allegedly poaching 27 big game animals in multiple counties over the past two years.
The Oregon Hunters Association operates the state's poaching tip line. Callers receive a cash reward or hunting preference points if their report leads to a citation or arrest.