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Authorities set sights on illegal hunters

February 10, 2010

Authorities set sights on illegal hunters

In an effort to curtail illegal night hunting and poaching, state wildlife officials across the USA are using everything from airplanes and night vision goggles to life-size decoys and computer programs to target violators.

States including Alabama, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Montana are aiming at those who hunt illegally at night or during the day outside posted hunting seasons or areas.

"People just want to have a trophy animal hanging on their wall," said Tyler Baskfield, communications manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. "They aren't interested in the experience and challenge of pursuing an animal like the vast majority of hunters are."

Colorado added life-size decoys this year to lure and catch illegal hunters.

In Alabama, illegal night hunters are tracked using airplanes to patrol tracts of rural areas, looking for suspicious vehicles driving around late at night, said Lt. Mike Pollard, a game warden and supervisor with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"There's really no excuse or reason to night hunt in Alabama," said Allan Andress, chief of the enforcement section of the freshwater fisheries and wildlife division for Alabama's Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. The state, he said, has one of the longest deer seasons in the country.

"Some poachers seek the thrill of getting away with something. Some are lazy, and don't want to put the work in to harvest a deer legally," Andress said.

Elsewhere:

. Oregon. Oregon State Police added a "robo elk" decoy to its arsenal to help combat illegal hunting last fall, said Steve Lane of the Oregon State Police. The decoy, which has a moving head and tail to mimic the animal, is used to attract illegal hunters to shoot. Fines for shooting the decoy are the same as those for shooting an animal, Lane said. Police also use aircraft for game law enforcement.

. Montana. Mike Mehn, a game warden and training officer with the state's division of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says the state has new computer licensing software that allows game wardens in the field to confirm people have licenses and permits.

. Pennsylvania. Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the state's game commission, says Pheasants Forever, a group that promotes hunting and conservation, has joined the anti-poaching effort by buying pheasant decoys the state uses to lure poachers.

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