The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a series of raids across the state Tuesday, targeting persons and businesses allegedly involved in poaching and illegally selling wild animal parts.
Fourteen warrants were served across the state, according to Mike Cenci, DFW's deputy chief of enforcement.
One warrant was served at the Tacoma home of the alleged head of an operation engaged in the unlawful sale of deer and elk meat.
In the town of Marblemount on State Highway 20 East of Concrete, officers confronted the owner of a ranch, hotel and restaurant accused of buying illegal wild game and putting it on the menu.
In other parts of the state, officers served warrants for poaching of protected raptors and fish.
Cenci said a variety of wildlife parts were being offered for sale by persons targeted in the operation, "everything from bear gallbladders to sport-caught fish that were not allowed to be commercialized ... to raptor parts and deer and elk meat."
Under Washington state law, wild game meat is not allowed to be sold, Cenci said.
In Tacoma, SWAT team members were seen removing weapons from the location where the warrant was served. At least one arrest was made at this location, and Cenci said the person was book on 13 counts of illegal trafficking and possession of closed-season big game.
As many as 12 vehicles will be seized in the operation, officials said, as well as firearms and packaged wildlife meat discovered by investigators.
State officials said poaching activities hurt people who hunt legally in the state.
They say it is a growing black market that threatens the survival of wild game herds and the safety of humans who are served uninspected game in stores and restaurants.
They also say poaching and trafficking has spawned a new and profitable angle for organized crime.
CLARIFICATION: The story has been updated to make clear that Washington law forbids the sale of wild game meat, not game meat generally.