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Solutions to Poaching Problem

Greetings all -

Reading about these recent poaching cases makes me sick and its obvious from reading the threads here I gather others feel the same.  I've been thinking about the issue and possible solutions ... no easier answers.  Questions I'm noodling on:

(1) Are the courts too lenient and the punishments too low?  My sense is these factors don't matter much since these criminals aren't thinking about these risks in the first place.

(2) What percentage of the crimes go undiscovered vs. discovered without suspects vs. discovered with without suspects vs. discovered with suspects but without sufficient evidence vs. discovered with successful convictions?  I fear the percentage of total incidents that gets successfully prosecuted is in the low single digits.

(3) Are the rewards offered through Operation Game Thief, etc. large enough to make an impact?  I'm on the fence.  I'd like to think that the vast majority of people who come forward do so because its the right thing to do.

(4) Can more be done through education and press coverage to drive up the "shame" deterent? For comparison, I wonder what the trend has been in dog fighting since Michael Vick's conviction. Would seeing some poacher perp walks on the local evening news have an impact on other would-be poachers?  Should those perp walk videos be replayed in every hunter safety class?  Why do we never see CDOW using their TV advertising to target poaching in the same way the police agencies target drunk driving? 

(5) Is CDOW's investigative capability underfunded?  Should it's investigation efforts and reward coffers be given a $ boost from outside sources?

Thanks for reading this and any comments you care to share.  I'd like to suggest that we  channel the rage we all feel towards something constructive.

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Thanks for getting some

Thanks for getting some thoughts down and working to get some constructive discussion going.  I would absolutely agree, most are sick and tired of the poaching or mis-identification we seem to continually hear about.  I think your points are reasonable places to start in terms of trying to curb or prevent poaching too.

First off, I don't think we'll ever end poaching.  My thoughts are we will always have cheaters no matter what the subject.  Hunting is no different than many other sports in this respect.  The question isn't so much preventing or ending poaching, but trying to dial up the ability to catch and punish those who do poach.  If the chances of being caught were greater, I'm sure we'd see much less impulsive actions that result in poached animals.

Second, there's really two different motivations for poaching:  large antlers/trophy animals and meat.  The trophy animal is probably impulsive and a crime of opportunity.  Some poachers do track and plan their kill for trophy animals, but most are not that elaborate in my opinion.  And then you could add in the unlicensed "guides" who work outside the law.  Meat poachers can range from simple to large and complex.  A great recent example is the Oregon family that has been poaching deer (to the tune of several hundred a year) to sell the meat.  This is definitely not the impulsive type of poacher either.

The trouble I see is the ecomonic impact of poaching is localized and generally out of the way.  Every year we read about the one or two cases that seem to get a larger audience interested and maybe even make the evening news, but those are the rare exceptions.  Most of the time, it's a hiker or another hunter who finds a carcass or sees something a bit suspicious and reports it.  And with the economic impact generally low, it's difficult to get more enforcement and investigative resources.  Given the resources the DOW has at its dosposal, would you rather see them spend most of their time managing wildlife populations, managing and improving habitat, generating public awareness programs, developing more public access programs, working with private landowners and agriculture, etc., OR put more resources into poaching enforcement?  That's a really hard question because the DOW really doesn't have enough resources to accomplish all of the above anyway.  

Briefly in response to your discussion points:

1.  Yes, I believe the punishments are too lenient.  A convicted poacher should lose their hunting priviledges for much longer periods of time (the rest of their lives is appropriate in many cases) and the fines much larger.  Increasing jail time is a tough sell due to overcrowding issues.  Frankly, I'd rather see those directly endangering people spend more time in jail than a poacher.  

2.  I'm with you here, I suspect only a small percentage of the crimes are ever discovered.  And only a small percentage of those discovered are ever solved and prosecuted.

3.  Most would report the crime because it's right, not because they will get a free license.  And I don't think the resources are there to increase monetary values of rewards.  Perhaps this is an area private clubs and foundations could make an impact by offering monetary rewards to individuals who provide information that leads to conviction.  The impact of larger rewards would likely be pretty small anyway.

4.  I think hunting as a culture already does a really good job of teaching what's right here.  From the hunter's safety courses, the hunting and shoot clubs and the DOW public awareness efforts all make it obvious that poaching is unacceptable.  Not sure how one would dial up the shame component in a consistent way that would act as a deterrent.  Maybe publishing the mug shot and name of each convicted poacher in the DOW brochure annually.

5.  Outside resources is probably the best option to find funds to support enforcement and investigation into poaching related crimes.  Still a tough sell to these outside organizations though.

Obviously, the more serious cases of poaching are those that I'd like to see the resources spent to investigate, prosecute and punish.  Cases like the Craigslist brothers selling hunts, or the family shooting hundreds of deer a year, these are the planned crimes that are more serious offenses in my opinion.  But I'd still like to see the many other cases brought to a just conclusion as well.  

In the end, the best contribution each of us can make is to be law abiding hunters who hold themselves to a very high ethical standard and demand others we hunt with do the same.  

 

SGM
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I agree with you

I agree with you and Meatunter and everytime I read a post about poaching I feel as if it was directed against me and my way of life. I think the fines and laws for the most part are good on bone headed wildlife violation such as not leaving evidence of sex on etc., they get caught pay a fine and hopefully they learn. However straight up not having a tag, not in season or just killing them to kill them type poaching punishment need vast improvement.

1. I think the biggest problem with the courts is they see it as a victim less crime. Also that they are so overwhelmed by violent crimes against people that this just not rate high on their radar scale. I would like to see a court/judge that only deals with wildlife crimes and acts. Then maybe we would see better justice. I understand this will never happen due to the cost but it would be cool if they could. 

2. I would say less than 25% of wildlife crimes/poaching are reported or even known about. Way to much area for the DOW law dogs to cover. Reporting to Operation Game Theif is still one of the best ways to help if you see it.

3 The rewards are cool but honestly do not think they help that much. I think it is the right thing to do and will regardless if there is a reward or not. I would rather get a special tag or 3 extra preference points for a tip that lead to a conviction that $1000 buck.

4. Sorry to say but the press does not care. They are too fixed on some bimbo getting married then divorced 3 months later than to care about our wildlife and the outdoors. Since the main stream public does not really care the media will not either. Even when Sampson was killed in Estese Park several years ago it was a quick cover story and only because of the public out cry. Of course hunters were blamed instead of saying POACHER!

5. I would love to see the DOW spend some of our money on TV commercials promoting hunting and why it is good and how it is good. I was very upset with the DOW back in the day when the animal rights folks stopped spring bear hunting and trapping by posting bill boards and TV Commercials. The DOW did basically nothing to counter it and it was a slap in the face of every hunter

We will never stop poaching as we have some really sick and twisted folks in our world. Best we can do is report what we see, teach our kids and citizens what is right and hopefully we can keep it to a minimum.  

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Well, this is a good topic. 

Well, this is a good topic.  My opinions are:

1.  Yes, I believe the punishments are too lenient.  I think it should be a fine of thousands of dollars, forfeiture of firearms and vehicles involved, and lost hunting privelages, even for a first offense.

2.  I think I have seen a stat somewhere where they only catch about one out of every ten poachers out there. There are people who live out in the back woods, miles from anyone, who can poach all night, every night, and never come in contact with any witnesses. So, if nobody sees them, they will never be caught or investigated.

3.  I do agree that most people who come forward do so out of conscience, that it's the right thing to do.  However, a little more money to get more information never hurt anyone.

4.  Yes, I believe education is very important for use against poachers.  Your suggestions are good, especially the inclusion of this topic in hunters safety classes.

5. I think most Fish and Game departments are underfunded.  It's just the way it is.  People would rather have their roads repaired, orschools funded, before they think about funding Fish and Game.  Heck, out here in California, the government has regularly raided the coffers of the F&G to take money for other projects.  Departments will need to continue to be self sufficient, through license sales, donation, etc.

Unfortunately, you will never get rid of poaching. The items you discussed could go a long way to minimize it, but it will always be there.

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As long as there are people

As long as there are people out there that are willing to justify poaching as feeding the family or "I need to make money some way" it will go on.  I have heard a lot of the arguments.  They usually start out by my dad and his dad did it so I do it.  Or they say that their family needs the meat.  Usually to the need the meat argument I tell them to learn how to fish.  Then there are the antler hunters.  A few states have made it illegal to poses antlers and a skull plate that are attached together unless there is a tag to go along with them.  Utah is one of these states.  They were having problems with poachers killing a large bull elk or large mule deer and going back after the antlers after the hunting seasons have closed and claiming that they just found them laying on the ground.  Now if you find such antlers you need to inform the DOW and have them go out and do a investigation on what killed the animal.  I know of a couple of hunters that have some nice racks by doing it this was since if the animal died of natural causes or was killed by a predator they get the racks, but if it was killed by a poacher then the racks are held for evidence if it ever goes to trial. 

Also a few states have enacted the "Trophy" law.  I know that here in Colorado it is called the Samson law for a large bull elk that was killed illegal.  But the animals antlers have to be considered a trophy to qualify for the extra fines and or sentences that it carries.  They really need to consider any poached animal a trophy and not only make the person that killed it pay the fines and restitution which in my mind needs to be a lot larger than it is now.  As far as jail time good luck on that one unless the person is a habitual offender since the jails are crowded with criminals that really need to be there.

Then there are the stupid hunters that kill a elk thinking that it was a deer or the moose thinking that it was a elk.  Those are the ones that you need to keep out of the mountains during any and all hunts.  A friend of mine used to say that he could understand mistaking a elk for a deer, that was until he saw his first elk then he said that there is no way that you could mistake them.  The same goes for shooting a moose.  The only thing that they look like is a moose. 

Now with all that being said they will always be poaching no matter what the fines and sentences are, you'll never stop it or really even slow it down.     

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More noodling

Thanks all.  I've been looking around a bit.  This topic has come up before, and I learned a few things.

First, in Washington state their poacher reward fund is now financed by a group who's first priority seems to be protecting the gray wolf.  The highest rewards now go for catching wolf poachers, followed by grizzly poachers following by trophy elk poachers, etc.

Second, after the animals, the most agrieved victim is certainly the image of hunting.

Chew on those two for a moment and then ask yourself, who should be most concerned and most vocal when it comes to poaching?

My noodling as I sit here today:  First, we need to work so that the public begins to clearly distinguish between hunters and poachers.  Right now too many people lump us all together into one group.  Related to this, I think the best deterrent to prevent poaching is to demonstrate that true hunters see poaching as a very serious taboo (akin to domestic violence or animal cruelty).  Regardless of what the courts hand down for a punishment, true hunters need to publicly banish convicted poachers from the tribe.  Perhaps a "book of shame" or similar tool is needed -- the complete opposite of the B&C. 

Imagine googling a potential guide's or job applicant's name and finding them on that list.

Imagine a poacher's sentencing hearing with 40 hunters in the courtroom or out on the courthouse steps.

Imagine a dozen billboards in Elk Country that read "POACHERS NOT WELCOME HERE." 

Before you dismiss this as somewhat crazy, consider what media coverage of an NFL QB's crimes did for the "sport" of dog fighting over the past few years.  It shined a light on it, and it got people talking about it as the disgusting taboo it is.  We need strong messages that get hunters, especially the younger ones, to see poaching the same way. 

You'll never eliminate it but you can put a dent in it, and you can certainly acheive a better separation in the public's minds between hunters and poachers.

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  jcbrown99 - I think all

 

jcbrown99 - I think all that are reading this have the exact same disdain for the poachers and their absolute disregard for the regulations and laws that disallow the 90%+ of ethical hunters to perfectly enjoy their passion and love for a sport that so often is in scrutiny or under a microscope.

(1) Yes I agree totally that the courts are too lenient on poaching crimes as they are considered non-violent towards other humans so there is a lesser penalty associated with it.  When jail time is most often commuted and 50% of fines are "forgiven" it doesn't dissuade an individual from breaking the law pertaining to killing wildlife.

(2) There is no fear about it.  The amount of poaching situations discovered, investigated, and prosecuted are definitely in the low single digit percentages - maybe 2% to 5% in total.  This is purely my opinion.  But it is based on what I have heard from people living in the hills and mountains of the areas outside of normal populated civilization that I have had contact with.  Many of these people I have had interactions with are those that are living on the land and wildlife and not "participating" with the general hunting public laws.

(3) There are other organizations that offer financial rewards other than TIPS and other governmental or private donation programs.  More money rewards definitely brings more people with real tips to address the poaching issues.  However, the greater dollar value of a reward is the proportionate focus on the issue.  It is not the ethical hunter that is moved here but the unethical hunter moved by the dollars offered.

(4) We need to see more on those prosecuted that have changed.  A football player that returns to the limelight and making several million dollars a year as his pay after spending a small amount of time in jail for crimes agains animails does not dissuade a regular "joe" from doing the same - or our youth from following what they feel is the "way of life".

(5) Yes the state's DOW or DNR is horribly underfunded to make real change in ensuring poachers FEAR for their lives as they see a minimal challenge to their regular lives.  A great disruption must be there to make change overall.

Thanks jcbrown99 for bringing these issues with our current system into light.  Those in charge of making change need to read and understand these issues as they dramatically affect the REAL hunters and their efforts to provide sustaining food and a focus on wildlife preseveration.  We can only focus on the changes needed to ensure all are providing the management necessary for our future "hunters" success.

 

 

 

 

 

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The goal of punishment for a

The goal of punishment for a convicted poachers is..........take away their right to ever own a gun again, and take away the right to ever hunt again.

 

Both of these can easily be accomplished by making the crime an automatic felony conviction. Simple as that. I would also add an automatic big fine. Take the decision out of the judges hands.

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In Oregon voters passed a law

In Oregon voters passed a law called measure 11 some years ago. Any crime that falls under the measures 11 scope carries a mandatory jail term and fine and the judge can't do anything about it. It cannot be reduced in any way shape or form. I would like to see Poaching crimes fall under a similiar law to where judges can't reduce a fine or jail time. That would more than likely make poachers think twice about comiting these crime knowing they face a stiff fine and jail time that connot be reduced or altered. All it takes is a petition to get a measure like that on the ballot for voters to pass.

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Even more noodling

... or is the problem too many plea deals by the county prosecutors and/or CDOW?

For example, this recent article about the craigslist fiasco in Douglas county mentions a total of 7 felony counts being dropped as part of the plea deals.

http://www.ourcoloradonews.com/castlerock/news/poaching-conviction-nets-thousands-in-fines-for-douglas-county-family/article_0b520a42-ee07-5807-bef2-68d6497904be.html

You can't say these guys got off easy and the press coverage certainly brought considerable shame to their family (although the reader comment at the end of the article suggests at least one person thinks this family was framed ?!?).

I'm inclined to believe the existing laws probably don't need changing.  I think the issue is scarce resources within CDOW and the offices of the county prosecutors combined with inadequate public/political support and focus on this issue.  Also I can't justify jail sentences when there aren't enough cells to keep violent criminals behind bars.

I believe these three in Castle Rock still face a CDOW hearing on the severity of their hunting privledge suspensions.  I wonder how often the CDOW commissioners and enforcement chief get deluged with mail calling for maximum suspensions... with copies of the letters also going to the offices of elected state officials?  Hmmm.

 

 

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No plea deals.

That would be a nice thing about setting poaching crimes like our measure 11 law. Under the measure there are no pleas or reduceds fines or reduced jail time. it is what it is and that it. If you break the law and in falls under the scope of this measure your screwed no matter what. There is nothing even the best lawyer or currupt judge could do for you. I would love to see poaching and wildlife crimes fall under a similar law.

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