The Robin Hood poacher — an elusive outlaw who dresses like the fabled English character, rides a Japanese motorcycle, and slaughters deer throughout Southern California — is reportedly responsible for the deaths of around 20 deer in the Santa Ynez gated community of Rancho Ynecita over the last two months. According to Animal Rescue Team Executive Director Julia Di Sieno, most of the animals were shot with a .22 caliber rifle. Some were killed with a bow and arrow.
Di Sieno said that on January 22 a nursing doe bled to death after she was shot with a long bow. Some property owners in the area have since posted “No Hunting” and “No Trespassing” signs, she stated, explaining that poaching has been a problem in the Santa Ynez region for years. The latest legal deer hunting season in Santa Barbara County began on August 14, 2010, and lasted for 44 consecutive days. The bag and possession limit, as mandated by Department of Fish & Game rules, was one buck, forked horn or better, per tag.
Robin Hood has also been spotted in Woodstock Ranch and on Figueroa Mountain Road in recent years, Di Sieno went on. And according to various media reports that reach as back far as the 1990s, he’s been active in Southern California for more than a decade. “It’s an ongoing thing with this particular poacher,” Di Sieno said.
The Animal Rescue Team is offering a $1,000 reward to whoever is able to provide information on Robin Hood that leads to his arrest. “We hope we can scare this guy or flush him out,” Di Sieno said. No one from Rancho Ynecita’s homeowners association could be reached for comment.
But the bike-riding bandit isn’t the only poacher on Di Sieno’s radar. She spoke of hunters consistently trying to access the back of Sedgwick Ranch — as well as Oak Trail Estates and San Lucas Ranch — in order to shoot and bag illegal game. Deer in those areas are oftentimes easier to kill, said Di Sieno, as they’re habituated to humans and don’t scatter at the sign of one.
She recalled a recent incident during which a poacher shot and killed a five point buck on Woodstock Ranch property — photos were taken of the hunter and his vehicle at the time — and he was apprehended when he returned for a second trip. Another man was cited for driving his truck and shooting fawns that were grazing in the San Lucas alfalfa fields. When the man, who was reportedly drinking at the time, returned to survey his handiwork, there were wardens waiting for him.
While Department of Fish & Game spokesperson Andrew Hughan acknowledged that poaching is a “huge issue” statewide — there are only 205 wardens employed across California, he explained — his agency hadn’t investigated any reports of poaching in Rancho Ynecita for some time.
A warden did examine the bodies of four deer recently found in the area, but they appeared to have been hit by cars or killed by mountain lions or coyotes, Hughan explained. If locals find any animals they suspect were poached, he implored, they should first and foremost notify Fish & Game at (888) 334-2258. “You really have to know what you’re looking for,” said Hughan of properly identifying poached carcasses.
The spokesperson, though, didn’t rule out the possibility of someone poaching in the area without his agency’s knowledge, again stating how wardens — especially these days — are spread thin. And addressing Robin Hood’s unique mode of attack, Hughan said such strange tactics are not out of the ordinary. “It wouldn’t surprise me. Some poachers employ unusual methods,” he said.