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Three relatives sentenced in Otsego County for Pigeon River Country elk poaching

Three elk cows poached in Otsego County in December 2019 are shown. Three northern Michigan men related to each other were sentenced for the crimes Thursday, March 18 in district court.

Three northern Michigan men related to each other were sentenced Thursday in Otsego County District Court in Gaylord for a 2019 elk-poaching incident, in which three elk cows were killed.

Christian White, 29, of Gaylord, Harry White, 70, and Ronald White, 56, both of West Branch, each pleaded guilty to one count of illegally taking an elk.

Each man lost his hunting privileges for 15 years, forfeited his weapon and was ordered to serve a six-month probation term. In addition, each must pay $5,000 in restitution for the elk and a total of $625 in fines and court costs.

“I am proud of our team’s investigative efforts, which ultimately brought these three men to justice,” said Sgt. Mark DePew, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer who supervised the investigation. “Our officers demonstrated teamwork and patience to quickly solve one of the worst—if not the worst—elk poaching case northern Michigan has ever seen.”

Conservation officers began investigating the three men more than a year ago, after receiving anonymous tips that eventually connected the suspects, and then confirmed they had been at the location where the three elk cows were found dead. That location was situated 50 yards north of Hardwood Lake Road, near Bobcat Trail, east of Vanderbilt in Otsego County. 

During the investigation, the Whites confessed to conservation officers that they poached the three elk. The three men were arraigned in January.

This was the third elk poaching case to occur within a 30-day period in late 2019. DNR conservation officers continue to actively investigate the two preceding elk poaching crimes: a bull elk killed in Otsego County in November 2019, and a second elk killed in Montmorency County a week later.

Anyone who witnesses or suspects a natural resource violation has occurred should immediately call or text the DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Information can be reported to the tip line anonymously and monetary rewards may be offered for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of violators.

Learn more at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.

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