POACHING PUNISHMENTS: Does The Species Make A Difference? – Todd Helms
If you’ve been paying attention to my many rants on poachers over the years you know that I’m all for stiff punishments in deliberate and heinous poaching cases. I’m talking about the deliberate theft of wildlife from the public trust, not about the hunter who accidentally kills a hen pheasant or a sub-legal mule deer buck and reports themselves. Honest mistakes happen but premeditated acts of poaching, no matter the motive, are exactly what I labeled them above, theft, plain and simple.
That said, I cannot help but having noticed some disparities in punishments between types of game animals. This past week I posted the results of a waterfowl poaching case from Michigan on the Wingmen Facebook Page. It received a ton of traffic and generated a lot of comments, spurring some excellent dialogue. The case in question was most certainly premeditated and a piggish display of human greed as the three poachers killed birds far in excess of their bag limits. The punishments include nearly $20k in restitution, permanent forfeiture of the guns used and the loss of hunting rights for roughly one year. I personally think they got off easy! That said, the day after I posted the news release on Facebook another Michigan poaching case popped up, this time it was an elk poaching case.
Now before some of you walk away saying, “Michigan? Who cares?” I think it’s important to note that cases like these happen all across the country and are perhaps more impactful in the West as our big game herds produce vast amounts of monetary value for the states in which they reside making losing animals to poaching a pretty serious cut out of local economies. But here’s where my real question comes to bear. The elk poachers in Michigan are serving six months probation, loss of hunting privileges for 15 years (which I do not believe works, these aren’t hunters to begin with), and a $625 fine. They must also reimburse the people of Michigan $5K for the three elk killed.
Shut The Front Door!!! $5625.00 for poaching three elk in a state whose total elk population lives in an area smaller than Park County, Wyoming? The waterfowl poachers have to pay roughly four times that much for killing over their limits on a baited hunting site.
Now, I realize there are federal components to the waterfowl poaching case as any migratory bird poaching is subject to federal regulations but how in the world does the punishment fit the crime here?
Let’s just focus on the money, as the loss of hunting privileges is a joke to people like this, they will still “hunt” every year. $20K in fines is a lot of dough however, and is truly impactful. Toss in some serious jail time and community service and we’re getting somewhere.
The question remains though, why did the elk poachers get off so easy? I think it’s time that ALL states take a tougher stance on ALL kinds of poaching. Massive fines, equipment forfeiture, jail time and community service for Game and Fish related projects… you steal from the people, you pay the people back with the sweat of your brow!
So here’s my call to action… we can make this a reality if we communicate with our legislators and game and fish directors and commissioners and judges. Until we get tough on poachers we will continue to lose precious natural resources like game birds and big game animals to the grasping paws of criminals who fear no retribution. Make it hurt and make them safe!
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