BOISE-- Four southwest Idaho men are being held accountable for illegally shooting more than a dozen deer, three cows, protected birds, and other wildlife.

The bizarre poaching spree happened during a four-week period in the fall of 2012. The defendants were charged with several crimes, including hunting without a license, taking big game with the aid of an artificial light, unlawful possession of deer parts, waste, and cattle rustling, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game

Investigators were able to trace the young poachers after a Citizen's Against Poaching (CAP) call tipped them off, according to Public Information Officer Evin Oneale.

Oneale says conservation officer Mark Sands investigated the call, found a bullet in the carcass of a dead mule deer, then tracked the bullet's trajectory to a nearby road where he found a shell casing that matched the bullet.

Sands and other conservation officers used this key piece of evidence along with other tips from the public to identify a group of young men from Weiser and Meridian who were implicated in the case.

At the end of the 18-month investigation, Sands concluded that multiple young adult men went on a killing spree over a four-week period, Oneale wrote in a media release. By their own admission, the defendants killed or wounded more than a dozen deer, protected birds, and all types of other wildlife. One of the defendants shot and killed three domestic cows.

Conservation officers say group was initially charged with a total of 65 violations, including 23 felonies and 29 misdemeanors. Others connected to the case were granted immunity in exchange for testimony against the four primary defendants.

The four defendants made a plea agreement with the Washington County Prosecutor's Office that included $24,450 in fines and restitution for the livestock losses, revocation of hunting licenses for three to five years, and 24 months of probation.

Simply stated, without critical information provided by local citizens, this case might never have come to a successful conclusion, officer Sands commented.

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