Should poaching be a felony? According to Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and a growing number of hunters, in certain circumstances, yes. It has been a year since Governor Dayton first called for legislators to upgrade the penalties for poaching, specifically for repeat offenders and those who take more than $2,000 worth of the state’s wildlife. Now, just as lawmakers have returned for a new legislative season earlier this month, support appears to be growing for harsher penalties.
“It’s important that we make it sting a little bit to take a fine animal out of Minnesota,” State Representative Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center) told KSTP. “”The thing that they hold dear is if you take their firearm and take their hunting privilege.”
In addition to establishing new felony-level penalties for poaching, Governor Dayton’s reform proposal also seeks to lengthen hunting and fishing license revocations—up to a maximum of 10 years. The new penalties would apply to any poacher who takes more than $2,000 value in wildlife, or any of the below:
- Four or more deer
- Two or more trophy deer
- Five or more bears or turkeys
- Forty or more ducks, geese, pheasant, grouse, or salmon
- Sixty-seven or more walleye or Northern pike
Dayton made the case for harsher penalties after two much-reported incidents of poaching last year, one of which included no less than 28 sets of antlers being confiscated. The other involved the shooting of two bull elk in a small herd that is already considered vulnerable and at risk.
“The recently reported instances of wanton and wasteful poaching in Minnesota should offend the sensibilities of all ethical and law-abiding hunters and anglers,” said Governor Dayton last year. “They are shameful criminal acts, and they should be treated as serious offenses by Minnesota laws. I ask our state’s sportsmen and sportswomen to join me in urging the legislature to increase the penalties for these disgusting abuses.”
The state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner, Tom Landwehr, agreed.
“The reforms being championed by Governor Dayton this year reflect the values of responsible Minnesota hunters and anglers,” Landwehr stated. “This proposal would enact strong and appropriate penalties for those who intentionally disregard the ethical and legal boundaries of hunting and fishing in Minnesota.”
According to Turn in Poachers (TIP) a private, non-profit organization that receives reports of hunting violations in the state, there were more than 1,200 anonymous calls last year to report a suspected poaching. The DNR issued 3,900 hunting citations alone in 2015, about 35 percent higher than the previous year.
You can watch an interview with conservation officers on the increase of poaching below:
Image courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources