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Three charged in Otsego County elk poaching case

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Three people in northern Michigan were charged Monday after state conservation officers spent more than a year investigating what a case supervisor called "one of the worst elk poaching incidents." 

All three are related and were arraigned in the Otsego County 87A District Court, the department said in a statement.

Christian White, 29, of Gaylord, and Harry White, 70, and Ronald White, 56, both of West Branch, pleaded not guilty to eight wildlife crimes after admitting to poaching three cow elk in Pigeon River Country in December 2019, according to the release.

The poaching of cow elk in December 2019 and sparked a yearlong investigation by Michigan DNR conservation officers.

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources started investigating the three more than a year ago after receiving anonymous tips that eventually linked them to the spot where three elk were found, 50 yards north of Hardwood Lake Road near Bobcat Trail.  

“This case can be summed up with one word — diligence,” said Sgt. Mark DePew, who supervised the case. “Without our officers' professional commitment to pursuit of the facts, these suspects would have gotten away with one of the worst elk poaching incidents I have ever seen. By utilizing teamwork, technology and good old-fashioned police work, this case could not have come to a better conclusion.” 

During the investigation, the Whites told conservation officers that they poached the three elk, the DNR said Monday.

Christian White was arraigned on four charges: hunting deer without a license, taking an over-limit of elk, failing to make a reasonable effort to retrieve the elk and taking elk in the wrong hunting unit.

Harry White was arraigned on three charges: taking an over-limit of elk, failing to make a reasonable effort to retrieve elk and taking elk in the wrong hunting unit.

Ronald White faced one charge: taking an over-limit of elk.

The Whites are scheduled for a jury status conference Feb. 11.

If found guilty, they will serve a mandatory 30 days in jail, with a maximum stay of 180 days. The misdemeanor charges include a 15-year revocation of hunting privileges and reimbursement up to $5,000 per elk.

Meanwhile, conservation officers are investigating two other elk poaching incidents from late 2019. One was in the Pigeon River State Forest in Otsego County, the other in Montmorency County.

Last year, following another DNR probe, an Upper Peninsula man was charged with 125 misdemeanor wildlife violations, including using cable snares primarily to kill 18 wolves over nearly 18 months beginning Dec. 1, 2018. 

Anyone who witnesses or suspects a natural resource violation should call or text the Report All Poaching hotline line at (800) 292-7800.