Stiffer Texas poaching laws appear to be working

spectr17

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Bob Hood/Ft. Worth Star Telegraph.

10/6/01

Poachers feel the pinch of tougher laws

Not long ago, most poachers' biggest worry about crawling over a fence and shooting a quail or deer on someone's land without permission was the embarrassment of being caught. The violation was only a Class C misdemeanor, and the fines were rarely more than pocket change.

Not anymore.

Today's poachers face stiff penalties, and the stronger laws appear to be working well two years after going into effect. Violations for hunting without landowner's consent have fallen from 458 cases filed in 1997 to 131 last year.

And many of the poachers convicted last year went to jail. Stiffer laws that went into effect Sept. 1, 1999, made that violation a Texas Parks and Wildlife state jail felony, which carries jail sentences of 180 days to two years and fines of $1,500 to $10,000.

Poachers hunting without landowner's consent also could lose their equipment, including weapons, and have their hunting licenses revoked. Here are three recent examples of how tough the laws can be:


In Bell County, a poacher who shot a six-point buck on land where he did not have permission to hunt was sentenced to 180 days in jail, to be served on weekends, and five years probation. He violated the terms of his probation, however, and was sentenced to two years in jail.

A repeat offender in Montague County, convicted of taking wildlife without the landowner's consent, was sentenced to 120 days in jail and had his hunting license revoked for five years.

In Williamson County, a jury found a poacher guilty of hunting deer at night and hunting without the landowner's consent. He was sentenced to 14 days in jail and two years probation, fined $4,000 and lost his hunting license for two years.
Hunting without the landowner's consent is just one of several violations for which the penalties were sharply increased.

Poachers killing white-tailed deer, mule deer, pronghorn antelope or desert big horn sheep while hunting from a vehicle on public roads or public property, or while hunting at night, face the same tougher jail sentences and fines and could be ordered to forfeit personal property and equipment, including vehicles, boats or aircraft used to hunt illegally.

A second offense for any of these violations really lowers the boom: two to 10 years imprisonment and fines of $2,000 to $10,000.

Penalties for wasting game also got a needed boost. Among the most common violators of that charge are the "head hunters" who kill deer only for their antlers and leave the carcasses to rot or to be eaten by predators. Once a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $500, wasting game now could result in up to one year in jail and a fine of $500 to $4,000. A second offense raises the offense to a state jail felony.

The new laws appear to be working well. In addition to the drop in cases involving hunting without landowner's consent, the number of cases filed for hunting from a vehicle decreased from 414 in 1997 to 113 last year. Also, cases for hunting at night went from 280 in 1997 to 41 last year.

The message is clear: Spotlighting for deer just isn't as much fun as it used to be for the persons who get caught. And neither is slipping over a fence to shoot a deer, quail or any other wildlife.
 


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