A Hobbs magistrate ordered a man convicted of poaching a trophy mule deer to pay the state $10,000 in civil damages, the maximum penalty under a 3-year-old law that allows the state to seek reimbursement for the loss of a trophy game animal.
Bradley Smith, 26, indicated through his attorney that he will appeal Tuesday's ruling by Hobbs Magistrate Jack Bailey. In March 2007, Smith pleaded no contest to a charge of illegal possession of a deer with 28-inch wide antlers. He was fined $467 by Magistrate Lemma White.
The antlers were scored at 202 3/8 inches according to the Safari Club International system, which qualified the deer as a "trophy" according to standards adopted by the 2006 Legislature and signed into law by Governor Bill Richardson. The law was promoted as a strong deterrent to poachers as the black market for trophy big-game antlers and heads continues to grow.
The maximum $10,000 penalty was the highest ever awarded by a New Mexico judge in a civil case involving trophy big-game poaching.
Smith's January 2007 arrest followed a citizen's report to the Department of Game and Fish Operation Game Thief hotline about a trophy-class mule deer shot out of season. Search warrants served by Department conservation officers, New Mexico State Police, Lea County Sheriff's Office and the Hobbs Police Department led to the seizure of evidence including the 28-inch set of deer antlers.
The Department encourages anyone with information about violations of New Mexico's wildlife laws to call Operation Game Thief toll-free, (800) 432-4263, or to visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us . Reporters can remain anonymous and earn rewards if information leads to charges being filed. The citizen who reported the 2007 poaching near Hobbs declined to accept a reward.