black bear
Credit: USFWS

'Outdoor Celebrity' Sentenced for Big Game Poaching After Instagram Brag

Officials say Jason Smith portrayed himself as an "outdoor celebrity" on social media when in reality he killed the animals illegally.

A Washington state judge sentenced a poacher to 80 hours of community service and an $8,000 fine for illegally killing a variety of big game. According to last week's announcement, a King County court convicted 29-year-old Jason Smith of two felony counts of unlawful hunting as well as a host of misdemeanors, which investigators uncovered by reviewing his social media accounts.

In a statement, Capt. Dan Chadwick, of the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, said Smith attempted to "portray himself as a type of outdoor celebrity, using social media to boast — when in reality, there was nothing ethical about his actions."

Jason Smith's crimes

Wildlife officers began investigating Smith in early 2021 after he shared multiple "successful harvest posts." They contained photos and descriptions in which Smith bragged about his "tracking and killing prowess." He also suggested he should be featured on "extreme outdoor TV shows."

However, investigators began to suspect that he had illegally killed multiple elk in the North Bend area and King County. During the next year and a half, they obtained search warrants and collected evidence of poaching.

What they found was that Smith had poached much of the wildlife he killed by baiting animals into his yard or trespassing on his neighbor's property. In all, authorities say Smith illegally killed four elk, four black bears, and five black-tailed deer.

Big game posts linked to crimes

According to the indictment, investigators used a combination of Smith's social media activity, OnXmaps application, and cell phone data to identify the time and locations in which he killed game. While Smith would share dramatic stories, investigators the data rarely matched.

In one instance, Smith shared an image of a dead bear and wrote: "I wanted this bear bad (sic) especially after my failed attempt a week prior. Persistence in the mountains pays. If you quit, the hunt is over. I love that there are no participation trophies in the mountains. You get what you earn. Nothing more, nothing less."

Behind the photo, though, investigators say Smith lured the bear behind his house with a bait pile full of apples. He also messaged others that he had shot. Then, he failed to submit the bear's premolar tooth to the state wildlife agency. In all, investigators documented more than a dozen incidents that follow a similar pattern.