Putting poachers to work?

Posted on: April 26, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--Poaching bustGame Commission officers stand with some of the wildlife parts collected during an investigation into poaching in Bedford County.

Imagine the work this criminal might have had to do.

As it is, at least he’ll have to pay a big chunk of change for his illegal activities.

Recently, Pennsylvania Game Commission officer Brandon Pfister got word that someone in Bedford County was keeping a young deer in an enclosure, having obtained the deer illegally. He went to investigate.

That led to a worse discovery.

Doing his investigation, Pfister said he saw deer parts “in plain view.” He asked for and got a warrant to do a more thorough search.

It turns out, the man who allegedly had the fawn — 40-year-old Darin Fleck – was  found  to be in possession of 65 flying squirrel tails, 45 antlered white-tailed deer skulls, two deer hides, three black bear skulls, two sets of bear paws, one red-tailed hawk head, one red-tailed hawk tail fan, one set of red-tailed hawk talons, one great horned owl tail fan, three sets of great horned owl talons, one set of eastern screech owl talons, two bobcat skulls, one coyote skull, one rattlesnake hide, and various feathers from wild turkeys.

While serving the warrant, they also saw a large amount of corn placed to attract game and wildlife. That’s a violation, as the area is within a disease management area, where feeding wildlife is not allowed.

In the end Fleck, who lives in Defiance — how appropriate is that – was charged with 78 wildlife violations. That included releasing a captive deer into the wild, as he’d released the penned deer  that started everything.

Fleck pled guilty to all charges on April 1 and must pay $18,531 in fines. He also lost his hunting privileges for several years.

If he were in Maryland, it could have been even worse.

Legislation before the Governor there and expected to be signed into law seriously upgrades the penalties for poaching wildlife. As is the case here in Pennsylvania, those who shoot trophy animals of a certain size – bucks with 150 or more inches of antler in Maryland’s case – will also have to pay replacement costs.

A number of states have gone to such trophy penalties lately.

Maryland took things one step further, though. Its soon-to-be-official poaching penalty law would require anyone convicted of poaching a deer to perform community service.

Anyone found guilty of poaching a buck will have to perform 80 hours of community service. Those convicted of poaching a doe would have to do 40 hours.

That can’t happen here in Pennsylvania.

“As far as the community service aspect, magisterial district judges are actually prohibited from imposing community service for game and wildlife code violations,” said Randy Shoup, assistant director of the commission’s bureau of wildlife protection.

Should that change?

The Boone and Crockett Club praised Maryland’s legislation, which “will make Maryland one of the most punitive states in America for poaching deer.”

“Poachers are not hunters. They are thieves that pose a significant threat to our natural resources and circumvent the hard work of wildlife managers, landowners, and hunters who abide by the law to take their game,” said club president Morrie Stevens.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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