Man Busted for Allegedly Killing 42 Elk, Selling Meat for Cash at a Rest Stop

One game warden’s affidavit says the man killed dozens of elk in orchards near his home and sold the meat to a “Russian dude in Portland”
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A bull elk looks across grassy plains.
The poacher was allegedly killing elk in the orchards and fields near his home outside of Yakima. Photograph by Tom Reichner / Adobe Stock

A multi-year investigation by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has culminated in a court summons for a man who lives outside of Yakima and who has allegedly been poaching elk and anadromous fish, and selling the meat for years. 

Braden Takheal, 42, has been requested to appear in Kittitas County Superior Court on March 18 and is being accused of illegal wildlife trafficking, according to court documents obtained by Outdoor Life. The accusation stems from a sting operation in which multiple undercover WDFW agents purchased elk meat from Takheal in 2021. Takheal claimed that a friend killed the elk near Takheal’s home, and that he can “get an elk anytime as there are a bunch of them that hang out right by his house,” according to WDFW detective Lenny Hahn’s affidavit.

Takheal is a member of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, which has its own tribal wildlife management and hunting laws on reservation land. But Takheal sold the elk meat to the undercover officers at a Flying J travel stop in Ellensburg roughly 30 miles north of the reservation. The officers originally got in touch with Takheal through Facebook Marketplace, where they responded to Takheal’s post looking for a Stihl chainsaw bar with a message from a fake account. They obtained his phone number on Aug. 3, 2020; by Feb. 28, 2021, he had offered to sell a whole elk and some 1,000 pounds of smelt to the undercover officer for a total of $2,200.

Trafficking edible parts of wildlife with a value of over $250 is a class B felony in the state of Washington and punishable by up to 10 years in state prison and a fine of $20,000.  

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The tip about Takheal’s elk meat business came from an anonymous source who told officers Takheal killed roughly 42 elk and sold them to a “Russian dude over in Portland” throughout the 2019 hunting season, as reported in Big Country News. He charged $1,000 for bulls and $800 for cows. According to court documents, the source suggested that Takheal didn’t have permission to hunt in the orchards and fields where he usually goes, even though they are supposedly on reservation land.

Detective Hahn’s affidavit also details comments Takheal made about selling thousands of dollars worth of chinook salmon and catching sturgeon in the Columbia River to sell their highly desirable eggs. Hahn also alleges that Takheal made a “snarky remark” about how conservationists “don’t know what they’re talking about,” claiming that hundreds of thousands of sturgeon live in the Columbia, and that he loves killing elk and finds it fun.