Perry County wildlife conservation officer Kevin Anderson with a buck poached amid Pennsylvania’s 2014 fall hunting seasons.
Wildlife trafficking globally ranks as one of the top five most profitable criminal enterprises there are.
Simply put, poaching is big money.
And that kind of activity doesn’t even take into account the other poaching that goes on: the cases where a criminal kills a big buck for bragging rights, or those that are what the Pennsylvania Game Commission calls “thrill kills,” where deer and other species are shot and left to lay just for the fun of it.
Law enforcement officers put a lot of effort in to stopping poaching. They often call on the public for help.
The Boone and Crockett Club and Leopold are funding research into whether there’s a way to make those efforts more efficient.
Called “Poach and Pay,” the project is being led by Vickie Edwards, a Boone and Crockett measurer and former wildlife biologist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. She will conduct in-depth interviews with every state wildlife agency and their enforcement divisions.
Her goal is to identify what is and is not working in the fight against poachers, which state agencies are already utilizing the Boone and Crockett Club’s official scoring system to assess higher fines for the poaching of a trophy animal, and whether those higher fines are a deterrent to poaching.
Now is the time for such a project, according to Boone and Crockett, “especially with the value of trophy animals on the rise and advancements in technology which give poachers an advantage over wildlife resources and enforcement actions.”
“Our hunting heritage is at risk every time an animal is poached and it is time to get serious about dealing with this on-going problem,” said Leupold’s president and CEO, Bruce Pettet.
Hunters are on board, the Club said. A survey conducted by “Poach and Pay” researchers found that 92.6 percent support higher fines for poaching big game in general, and 88 percent favor of even higher fines for poaching trophy big game.
“Poach and Pay” researchers will survey enforcement officers from every state wildlife agency and publish their findings and recommendations in a report to be distributed to state agency directors. It’s to be published by summer 2017.