September 15, 2012

Poaching fines get super-sized next year

The possible cost of getting caught poaching a trophy-class animal in Kansas will skyrocket in 2013.

The possible cost of getting caught poaching a trophy-class animal in Kansas will skyrocket in 2013.

For instance, get busted with an illegal whitetail deer that flirts with the magical 200 inches of antler and it could cost $20,000. An illegal bull elk that scores 350 inches could run you $45,000.

A poached mule deer with 130 inches of antler, which could be a 2-year-old buck, could run $1,800.

And those mandatory penalties are restitution to the state, and would be in addition to other fines, jail time and equipment confiscations.

In most cases, such restitution money will go to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, usually to support law-enforcement activities.

The regulation passed by the Kansas legislature this year is set to be severe punishment.

“When someone poaches (a trophy animal) illegally, it’s not just a hunting problem, it’s a rural community problem,” said Tim Donges, Bluestem Quality Deer Management Association president. “It has a serious economic impact on the area.”

Donges, of El Dorado, was a main proponent of the bill that was backed by Wildlife and Parks and several agriculture groups.

He said poaching has become such a problem that it’s hurting the quality of the deer in many areas.

An avid trophy hunter, Donges said poaching often cheats law-abiding sportsmen who often invest hundreds of hours to big-game hunting.

Trophy poaching also impacts outfitters and landowners trying to market hunts for big deer. It can also decrease land values.

“If you’re wanting to sell your property, and it has recreational value, poaching in that area will certainly lower the value,” Donges said. “It’s like crime in town. If you have a house in a high-crime area, it’s going to de-value that house.”

Kevin Jones, Wildlife and Parks law enforcement chief, said numerous states now have mandatory poaching penalties.

The formula passed by the legislature is one Donges helped adapt from a system used in Ohio.

“We just took some things from their system, which they probably took from some place like Texas,” he said. “We didn’t re-invent the wheel to come up with our system.”

Elk, deer and antelope are classified under the Boone & Crockett scoring system. Gross antler scores are used and the animals must be measured by an official scorer.

Whitetail and mule deer bucks of 125 inches and over, antelope of 75 inches and over and elk of 250 inches and over are considered trophies under the new law.

For deer, the penalty formula is the buck’s score subtracted by 100. That figure is squared, then multiplied by $2.

For elk, the formula is the bull’s score with 200 subtracted, squared and multiplied by $2.

For trophy antelope, it is the buck’s score with 40 subtracted, squared and multiplied by $2.

Jones said KDWPT has the authority to suspend part or all of the amount.

An example could be a judge fining the poacher for violated game laws, then putting the poacher on probation for the restitution amount. If the probation is violated, the poacher would have to pay the entire state-mandated restitution fee. If not, they may only have to pay part or none.

Donges said legislative support for the new regulations were wide-spread and sincere. He’s also hearing from a growing number of people frustrated with what’s happening across the Kansas countryside.

“These (poachers) aren’t people out there trying to feed their families, they’re stealing from everybody and committing other crimes as they go. They’re destroying private property, they’re endangering (human) lives with shooting at night,” he said. “These kinds of things affect everybody that has ties to a rural community.”

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