West Virginia's New Law Used in Conviction of Two Poachers

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A Preston County man and a Tucker County juvenile are the first persons charged and convicted with violating a wildlife law passed this year by the West Virginia Legislature. Division of Natural Resources Police Officers Sgt. Gary Johnson and Officer Josh Rhodes charged Mike A. Chapman, 22, from Aurora, W.Va. and an unnamed Tucker County juvenile in Preston County magistrate court in July, 2010. Both were charged and convicted of spotlighting, carrying loaded firearm in a vehicle and illegal killing of wildlife. The deer was killed in the Aurora area of Preston County and had antlers in velvet that measured almost 16 inches at the widest point. Fines, court costs and replacement costs totaled $2,414.80. In addition, the two are required to perform several hours of community service.

The new law, which went into effect in June, provides that additional replacement costs be collected from persons who are convicted of illegally killing wildlife, with the additional costs being based on the antler size of an illegally killed deer. The old law provided for a $200 replacement cost for all deer that were illegally killed regardless of antler size. Persons who are convicted of illegally killing a deer are still assessed the $200 replacement costs. If the deer has antlers in which the main beams measured at the widest point equals 14 inches but less than 16 inches, the replacement is $1,000; 16 inches and less than 18 inches is $1,500; 18 inches but less than 20 inches is $2,000; and greater than 20 inches is $2,500.

"The purpose of the enhanced replacement costs is to act as an additional deterrent to slow the illegal killing of deer that are considered to be trophies and that are a valuable natural resource of this state," according to DNR Law Enforcement Section Chief David Murphy. "Many people come to West Virginia to hunt for trophy whitetails. They spend a lot of money in our state, purchasing licenses, eating in our restaurants, buying food, gasoline and other items at stores and staying in motels, and they have every right to expect that resource to be protected from poachers."