Despite enforcement, poaching a big problem

Posted on: January 12, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

PGC--Poaching 4Poachers took this massive haul of snow geese, but were arrested for their efforts.

We’ll get the specifics later this month, but suffice it to say, they’re good and bad.

For five years running now, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has conducted what it calls “Operation Talon.” It’s a statewide, concerted effort to find and arrest wildlife poachers.

Tom Grohol, chief law enforcement officer with the agency as head of its bureau of wildlife protection, wouldn’t say say exactly how things went this past fall. He’s saving that for a presentation at the commission’s upcoming meeting, on Feb. 1.

But he gave a hint when he told commissioners at their recent work group meeting that the sting, carried out from Oct. 30-Nov. 14, resulted in a record number of citations and arrests. He called it the “most successful to date.”

If there’s one thing that’s disturbing, it’s just how much poaching is going on, he added.

The commission has made no secret of these Operation Talon efforts, he said. Nor has it been shy about detailing results.

Yet crime continues.

“The bad news is there’s certainly no shortage of poaching activities going on,” Grohol said.

Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor in the commission’s southwest region office, said that’s definitely the case there.

Sever years ago, state lawmakers – at the request of the commission and sportsmen – significantly increased the fines associated with poaching convictions. In the case of trophy animals, those with antlers or body weights big enough to classify them as record-book quality, convicts even have to pay “replacement costs.”

Wildlife conservation officers have made good use of the new rules, and are making arrests that lead to some really hefty fines, Fazi said.

None of that seems to be deterring poachers from shooting wildlife outside the law, though, he added.
“It’s rampant. It really is. It’s worse and worse every year,” Fazi said.

To solicit more public support in stopping that, the commission last fall launched “Operation Game Thief,” meant to be an easier way to report violations.

Grohol said the number of tips received since October is up “considerably” compared to times past. The agency is now working with Cabela’s on a way to promote it even more.

Grohol said he’ll offer an update on all of that at the Feb. 1 meeting, too.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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