Idaho elk sting leads to arrests

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AVERY, Idaho - Five hunters face thousands of dollars in civil fines and the loss of their hunting privileges after being nabbed for their alleged role in an illegal elk-killing operation in northern Idaho's St. Joe River backcountry.

Dubbed ''Operation Snowball,'' eight undercover Idaho Department of Fish and Game wardens backpacked into the Snow Peak Wildlife Management area southeast of Avery. Some posed as hunters to discretely observe three West Virginia residents and two others from Idaho who have for years been suspected of killing more elk than they are allowed by law.

Arrested were West Virginia residents Richard L. Eddy, John D. Mathews and C.W. Mathews, as well as Avery residents Buckner A. Moore and Michelle M. Castner. The five were charged in 1st District Court in Shoshone County with a combined 14 violations, including shooting from a public road, hunting elk without a tag and hunting elk outside of the season.