New Mexico Man Fined $10,000 for Poaching
A southeastern New Mexico man convicted of poaching a trophy mule deer in 2007 has been ordered to pay $10,000 in civil penalties to reimburse the state for the loss of a valuable game animal.
Bradley A. Smith, 27, had contested the civil judgment sought by the Department of Game and Fish in addition to two criminal counts of poaching. The Magistrate Court entered a $10,000 civil judgment, which was appealed to the District Court. After hearing testimony and arguments, Lovington District Judge Don Maddox determined that evidence established that the value of the deer was at least $10,000 and entered a judgment in favor of the Department of Game and Fish.
Smith was convicted June 1, 2007, and ordered to pay $914 in fines and court costs for illegally killing two deer out of season and without a license. One of those deer had 32-inch wide antlers that scored 202 3/8 inches according to the Safari Club International system. The score qualified the deer as a "trophy" according to standards adopted by the New Mexico Legislature and the State Game Commission. The Legislature passed a law in 2006 that allows civil penalties up to $10,000 for poaching a deer that scores 200 or more inches.
"Civil penalties like this send a strong message to anyone thinking about stealing New Mexico's valuable wildlife," said Conservation Officer Brian Guzman, the Department's lead investigator on the case. "This deer would have been a super trophy for any legal hunter."
Smith's arrest in January 2007 followed a report to the Operation Game Thief hotline from a citizen who witnessed 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 the trophy antlers.
D'Ann Read, chief deputy district attorney for the Fifth Judicial District Attorney's Office, said the judgment was a big victory for the state. "The deer poached was a truly magnificent animal, a lost resource belonging to the State of New Mexico and its citizens," Read said. "I am gratified that two levels of judiciary recognize that illegally taken game steals from us all and that civil penalties are an option to recover that loss."
The Department encourages anyone with information about violations of New Mexico's wildlife laws to call Operation Game Thief toll-free, (800) 432-GAME (4263), or to visit www.wildlife.state.nm.us. Callers can remain anonymous and earn rewards if information leads to charges being filed.