A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle fish wrap by Tom Stienstra about a poacher busted with a bunch illegally taken game has me wondering when our courts systems will finally put the wood to these folks. The wrist slaps simply are not working.
At the recent California Fish & Game Commission meeting here in Upland CA the commissioners talked about raising the current fines and penalties for the commercial poachers since the current laws are not working to deter folks from raping our natural resources. I think the egregious poachers also need to be lumped in with the commercial poacher law change.
One simple violation like shooting too late would be just a small fine. If you get caught with multiple violations or are a repeat offender than they throw the book at you. Maybe a 2 strikes and you're out dealio. Wardens tell us the current fines are no deterrent when the poacher can make 10X the fine selling the poached game. The solution seems simple, raise the fines to where it really hurts and add in some mandatory jail time. That should get their attention for starters. The commission also talked raising the serious poaching cases to felony level. Whatever it takes, I've had a bellyful of seeing someone caught way WAY over the line and they get a simple $100 fine and back out they go to do it all over again.
I also think the guys poaching for trophy game should also be lumped into the harsher punishment category. Some states have already taken action to stop the trophy poachers with the Samson Law. This legislation significantly increases the penalties associated with the poaching of trophy big game animals. Heck, I'd vote for 1/2 hour with a belt sander being applied but I don't think that's going to fly
I believe the trophy poachers are the worst as they leave the headless animal to rot in the woods or field, many times in plain sight of a road where all can see. Dad and I found a headless whitetail like this near Swan Lake NWR several years back. It really left an empty feeling in me that someone could be so callous in regard to our wildlife and hunting traditions. They simply shot the buck from their vehicle, hopped out with a Sawzall and cut the head off and hopped back in and scrammed. Maybe took them 5 minutes to do their handywork.
What else can we do to stop this nonsense? Store your state's poaching tip line in your cellphone. If your state doesn't have a tip line ask them, "Why Not?" Carry a small digital camera with you in the field. If you see something that raises your suspicions take some pics. You don't need to confront the bad guys, just make the call and let the wardens and cops do their job. In some states they even offer rewards for the tips. You can remain anonymous and help weed out the dirtbags who steal from the community. We also need to educate and put pressure on our local district attorneys and judges who are the ones lowering the boom. Many times they don't understand the severity of these crimes and how they affect our image to the non hunting or fishing public.
What do you think? Are the current poaching laws and punishment fair or do you think we need to tighten the screw a bit? How does your state operate? Do they have a tip line?
P.S. That big whitetail buck above, he was poached on Swan Lake NWR in Missouri and the guy was caught. The mount is on display in the refuge office.