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OR: Poachers of trophy wildlife beware

Offenders of amended law will get much higher fines

Feb 21, 2011.

Poachers of trophy wildlife beware

JOHN DAY – Poachers now pay the price for taking trophy big game – big time.

During last fall’s hunting seasons, Oregon State Police trooper Marv Ritter investigated four incidents in which conviction could lead to new and higher penalties.

“Poachers take notice. It’s not just a $750 fine for deer and $1,500 for elk any more,” said Ritter. “There’s definitely a price to pay for taking large trophy animals.”

The beefed up amendment to the fish and game laws took effect in 2010, with new fines including:

• Illegal taking of a four-point deer or larger, up to $7,500.

• Illegal taking of a six-point or larger elk, $15,000.

• Illegal taking of each moose with antlers, $25,000.

• An illegally taken mountain goat with at least one horn equal to or greater than six inches, $25,000.

• An illegally taken antelope with at least one horn that’s at least 14 inches, $7,500.

A conviction also can mean a minimum three-year suspension of their hunting license; court costs and fees; payment for cut and wrap fees; community service time; and probation. If the person had a prior record involving poaching, the penalties could be even stricter, said Ritter.

Conviction also brings a minimum of a Class A misdemeanor to a perpetrator’s record. In some cases, it could be considered a felony, he said.

Of the cases Ritter dealt with last fall, three involved deer that met the four-point or larger stipulation, he said. The cases are still making their way through the court system.

One deer was taken by a suspect who subsequently pleaded guilty to illegal trespass, was fined $7,500 for damages and given a three-year suspension of his hunting license. That defendant is seeking to appeal the fine.

Ritter was involved in investigating another case of illegal trespass, in which a 4x4 buck was killed. In a third case, the suspect didn’t have a deer tag and allegedly took a 5x5 deer at night.

While those cases involved deer taken during hunting season, Ritter said police also investigate cases involving animals taken out of season. Some poachers take advantage of winter range, where game can congregate in open areas, and some have cut horns off of animals, and left the carcasses to waste, he said.

“People who do that can definitely expect a ride to jail,” said Ritter.

“Our goal is to get the word out in order to protect the wildlife resource. Many of our big game herds are not doing well, and poachers exacerbate that problem,” he said.

The law regarding big game, which establishes damages amounts for unlawful killing of wildlife, was introduced by wildlife supporters seeking to put bigger teeth into the law, particularly for trophy animals. Legislators passed it in 2009.

OSP fish and game officers often detect incidents while on patrol. In the majority of cases, however, catching illegal taking of wildlife is done with the help of law-abiding people who witness and report “things that don’t seem right,” Ritter said.

“The eyes and ears of others help us make these cases. It’s important that if someone sees a crime in progress or one that has occurred, that they call law enforcement,” he said.

Ritter said that people can call the OSP dispatch center, 541-575-0471, or John Day Dispatch, 541-575-0030.

That help may even bring a cash reward, Ritter said. The Oregon Hunters Association sponsors a TIP (Turn In Poachers) program, which provides rewardS of $250 or more in some cases, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a poacher.

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