Linn County Oregon Deputy District Attorney Keith Stein is an award-winning wildlife prosecutor. In fact, he’s the only one in his office with such a credential.

Stein on Aug. 18 accepted the 2015 Wildlife Prosecutor of the year Award at the Oregon District Attorney’s Association Summer Conference in Bend. The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division presented the award on behalf of the Oregon Sportsmen’s Coalition.

“You’re sitting on my award,” remarked Stein with a laugh at his office in the Linn County Courthouse as he moved a framed painting of a bull elk awaiting a suitable place on his wall.

When Stein began his career in 2006, he said he was really big on prosecuting such cases.

“They’re kind of like the mafia,” said Stein of wildlife poachers. “There’s a poaching ring here. They know all the troopers by name.”

Stein said actually bringing poachers to justice is difficult, and so he makes sure to aggressively prosecute the high profile cases.

“We rarely, if ever, catch a guy,” he said. “So the strategy is to really go after a guy when we find him.”

Stein’s award recognizes his efforts to prosecute high-profile cases that he says have a large negative impact on the local environment.

“We’re focused on that small group of egregious offenders,” he said. “There are some people who just have that mentality that God put the big game here to let them hunt in the king’s forest.”

Stein said such poachers are “very selfish offenders.”

“They don’t care,” he said. “They just want to bag their rack. I’ve had suspects who describe their poaching as an addiction.”

Stein also made sure to acknowledge the efforts of Oregon State Police agents, who spend hours in the bush hoping to catch the offenders.

“They’ll sit out all night with night vision goggles in the rain,” he said. “They do hard-core amazing things.”

Regarding the award, Stein said it carries great sentimental value.

“It shows how much it means to OSP and the coalition,” he said.