The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) announced recently that it issued the harshest punishment for poaching in the history of the department. According to the agency, two men who entered guilty pleas for poaching earlier this month have been issued a permanent lifetime hunting ban in 44 states. Wildlife officials suspected that Eddy Albert, 21, and Densibel Calzada, 23, poached over 40 deer recently. The killings occurred at night and on private property while trespassing. The two men even recorded their illegal hunts and reportedly took videos where they piled the animals together and mocked them.
“Their actions were among the worst I have seen for their lack of respect to our landowners and to our wildlife,” said TWRA Sgt. Matt Brian in a press release.
Since Tennessee is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator’s Compact, a permanent hunting ban in the state also applies in every other member state of the compact. Currently four states—Hawaii, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Delaware—are in the process of joining the compact. Nebraska and New Jersey are the only states who have not.
In addition to a hunting ban across most of the United States, Albert and Calzada were also ordered to serve 100 hours of community service and an 18-month probation.
“If they decide to hunt or poach again, they face the likelihood of going to jail,” said TWRA Sgt. Jonathan Lee. “With their actions they have created a bad situation for themselves.”
Outraged hunters and conservationists however, say it is not bad enough. Many have called for jail time, while others argued that severe wildlife violations should be upgraded to felonies instead of being treated as misdemeanors. The pair was charged with hunting out of season, hunting without permission, illegal transportation of wildlife, and failing to report the deer they took. The TWRA confiscated their hunting weapons, a rifle and crossbow, and the two now have to pay $1,000 in court costs and $5,000 in restitution fees.
A light penalty, some have said, for their crimes. Even TWRA officials say they were disturbed by some of the evidence collected during the investigation, especially the cell phone videos the pair took with their kills.
“They were getting on top of the deer and doing all sorts of things,” TWRA information officer Doug Markham told The Tennessean. “They had one where the deer was still alive and they blew his head off. They were high-fiving each other after showing the hole where they had shot one at nighttime. I didn’t see all of the videos, but the officer said some of it was just really grotesque.”
Albert and Calzada first came to the attention of wildlife officers last December when they were caught hunting without permission on private land. Just two days later, they were detained by the Smyra Police Department for discharging firearms near the city’s airport. When officers found a rifle and dead deer in the men’s truck, they obtained a search warrant for their homes and found enough evidence to ban the two men from hunting for life.
“We will never know how many deer these two killed, but we believe they could have poached at least 40,” said Sgt. Brian. “We charged them with violations based on the strongest evidence we found showing the seriousness of their poaching crimes.”
Image courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service