Profits in poaching exceed the fines if you get caught, Jim Matthews column 18 June

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Profits in poaching exceed the fines if you get caught

Jim Matthews, Outdoor News Service

June 18 2009

Three generations of poachers from Williams were caught and convicted, trumpeted a Department of Fish and Game press release this week. Career game crooks all, their total fine was $5,500 each, three years of probation, and loss of hunting license privileges for a year.

The trio had 47 goose tracking collars on their property, valued at over $5,000 each. They poached countless protected geese and shorebirds, committed tag fraud, poached over a dozen deer, and had illegal assault guns.

And all they got was a $5,500 fine -- proof that game crime does pay. It pays so well that it is being passed on from generation to generation.

Several Western states publish how much the fines are for poaching different game animals, which seemed like an invitation to poach to me. The fines are generally far less than legitimate hunters will pay at auction for a tag to hunt bighorn sheep or moose or even deer.

Wardens work diligently to make cases like these, and when their time and effort costs more than the fines the career criminals receive from the court, it makes a mockery of their efforts.

Other people feel the same way. In an almost unprecedented event, environmental groups, hunters, fishermen just about everyone who spends time outdoors are looking at AB 708 sponsored by assemblyman Jared Huffman, a bill that would finally create stronger penalties for poachers, particularly repeat offenders. The bill recently passed the assembly on a unanimous vote and it now in the state Senate

The California Department of Fish and Game declared 2008 "the year of extreme poaching," according to Audubon California. The rise in extreme poaching matches that of poaching overall. Violations rose from 6,538 in 2003 to 17,840 in 2007, even with the warden force now shunk to less than 200 activy-duty wardens statewide. It's way past time to get tough.
 
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