Conservationists push for stricter poaching laws in Missouri
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Conservationists and lawmakers dissatisfied with Missouri’s anti-poaching laws believe the current fines and penalties do little to prevent the act.
Missouri’s fines cover a range of wildlife code violations, from importing a live prohibited species into the state to taking a deer from a public roadway. No fine exceeds $300 plus court costs, a factor that supporters of stiffer penalties believe leads to a large number of poaching cases, the Columbia Missourian reported .
Conservation agents have detected a total of nearly 74,000 wildlife code violations over the last three years while on patrol. Of those violations, they’ve taken action on less than 22,000, said Larry Yamnitz, chief of the Conservation Department’s Protection Division.
Protection Division Regional Supervisor Tom Strother said some people simply don’t care about the penalties.
“I think the low fines can contribute to some people saying, ‘Well, I’ll just give you a small amount for the fine,’” Strother said. “If I’m going to get caught one out of 100 times, I’ll just give you the small amount.”
Former Republican Rep. Linda Black proposed a bill to increase poaching fines after a poacher killed a bull elk in 2015. The bill would have required those convicted of certain poaching violations to pay restitution to the state of $750 for a wild turkey, $1,500 for a white-tailed deer and $3,500 for a black bear or elk. The bill failed to make it to the House floor for debate.
Republican Reps. Donna Lichtenegger and Jered Taylor introduced bills in late 2016 and early 2017 nearly identical to Black’s, but those never made it out of committee.
“The bill died as of May 15 when our last day of session was,” Taylor said. “There are some people with concerns. There is a lot of support for it out there as well.”
Taylor said he plans to re-file the bill in January.
“This should be a bipartisan issue,” said Brandon Butler, executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri. “It shouldn’t matter if it’s urban or rural. This should be something we all want to move forward on: protecting our wildlife.”
Information from: Columbia Missourian, http://www.columbiamissourian.com