Oregon City, Ore. — OSP Fish & Wildlife Division selected Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Alexander Hayes as recipient of the Prosecutor of the Year award during the annual Oregon District Attorney Association conference in Seaside last month. OSP Fish and Wildlife Captain, Casey Thomas presented a framed print of an elk, provided by the Oregon Hunters Association (OHA).
The award is made possible through coordination with OHA, according to Captain Thomas.
“OHA’s contribution to the award and participation in making the award possible is very much appreciated,” he said, “We have a great relationship with OHA through this award, the TIP fund and working with local chapters.”
Hayes, who clerked for the Clackamas DA’s office while in law school, knew he wanted to become a DDA for the county. He hit the ground running in 2018.
One of his first wildlife poaching cases as a prosecutor involved three subjects who lured bears with apples to a site where they had guns at the ready to shoot them. The process, called bear baiting, is illegal in Oregon. Working with OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers, Hayes won his case, and all three subjects were convicted.
Setting and enforcing harvest limits is a cornerstone in natural resource conservation, according to ODFW Director, Curt Melcher.
“Before we had laws to limit the quantities and methods for harvesting wildlife, there was a high risk that fish and wildlife populations would not have been sustained. Enforcing those laws and prosecuting those who break them preserves our fish and wildlife for future generations,” he said.
The nomination process seeks input from Troopers who have worked with a DDA nominated for the award. One submission from an OSP F&W Trooper complimented DDA Hayes on his communications style.
“DDA Hayes has shown time and again he is a great communicator, goes above and beyond with his dedication to natural resource prosecution, is always available to the field force and is one of the most passionate and persistent prosecutors I have ever worked with in my 16 years in the Fish and Wildlife Division,” the source said.
Oregon’s Wildlife Anti-Poaching Resources Prosecutor, Jay Hall, agrees.
“Alex has been a great resource for OSP Troopers in the metro area,” Hall said, “He has also been a help in training new prosecutors in the metro area as well. Clackamas County is very lucky to have such a dedicated hard working prosecutor on their side and I know that he will continue to be a leader among his peers, positively influence others and motivate young prosecutors to follow in his footsteps.
DDA Hayes is quick to credit others with his success; especially OSP F&W Troopers who investigate and solve the cases.
“OSP F&W Troopers and investigators are some of the most professional, dedicated law enforcement agents I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” he said, “They are willing to go above and beyond to ensure the investigation is complete, done right, and ready to prosecute.”
DDA Hayes, who grew up in Clackamas County, learned to hunt with friends when he was a teenager. He brought the skill back to his family and his dad was with him when he harvested his first deer- a muley doe- during a youth hunt near Joseph. When he attended law school in Moscow, ID, Hayes made friends with other law students who shared his passion for hunting and the outdoors. The experience would educate him in the nuances of poaching cases and codify his determination to protect the resource.
Clackamas County boasts diversity in and wildlife habitats. The geography encompasses both urban and rural areas spanning from Mt Hood National Forest to private timber lands and the Portland metro area. Several years ago, he prosecuted a complicated case involving an organized ring of sturgeon poachers working the Willamette River. Hayes was hooked after successfully prosecuting several illegal sturgeon poaching cases on the Willamette River.
Sturgeon, imperiled in Oregon, are known as the dinosaurs of the fish world. Slow-growing and long-lived, a sturgeon doesn’t mature and start reproducing until it is about 20 years old, according to ODFW. Prosecutors who prioritize fish and wildlife crimes help to preserve species like sturgeon that are vulnerable to illegal wildlife trade and sale.
As a tributary to the Columbia, the Willamette River historically supported a robust sturgeon population. However, because fishing is open for a variety of species, it can be difficult for Troopers and wildlife officials to identify sturgeon poaching. Places like Selwood, Milwaukie and the Oregon City Bridge became favorite places for poachers. OSP F&W investigators worked with other law enforcement agencies, informants, and residents to identify illegal activities.
The poaching ring taking Willamette River stocks worked for years and harvested an untold number of fish and certainly impacted current populations before it was stopped, according to Hayes.
The Stop Poaching Campaign educates the public on how to recognize and report poaching. This campaign is a collaboration among state agencies, sportsmen and other conservationists, landowners, and recreationists to engage the public in combatting Oregon’s poaching problem. Our goal is to: Incentivize reporting on wildlife crimes through the TIP Line; Strengthen enforcement by increasing the number of OSP Fish and Wildlife Troopers; and Support prosecution in becoming an effective deterrent. The campaign helps to protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitat for the enjoyment of present and future generations. Contact campaign coordinator Yvonne Shaw for more information. Yvonne.L.Shaw@odfw.oregon.gov.