Pennsylvania Game Commission
Antlers are a powerful draw for those who those willing to take game illegally.
So, what is it that people who run afoul of the state’s wildlife laws are up to?
The same old things, year after year.
Tom Grohol, who heads the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s bureau of wildlife protection, recently outlined the top 10 wildlife crimes, by category, for the fiscal year 2014-15.
There were no surprises. The top seven violations are pretty much the same year in and year out, he noted.
“They change very little throughout history,” Grohol said.
No. 1, by far, was again unlawful take of wildlife, meaning poaching. Officers prosecuted 1,582 such cases in the fiscal year, accounting for about 36 percent of the total.
That was up from 1,112 violations in fiscal 2013-14 and the most prosecuted in at least six years, Grohol noted.
Operating a motor vehicle on a state game lands or cooperative access property ranked second in violations, with 621. That was 14 percent of the total. Next was hunting over bait with 468 cases, for 11 percent of the total.
Rounding out the top 10 violations, in order, were possessing a loaded firearm in a vehicle; failing to wear the required amount of orange; failing to tag big game properly; littering; safety zone violations; hunting or taking game with a boat or vehicle; and consuming, transporting, or possessing alcohol on a state game lands.
At least violators are paying for their crimes. That’s especially true of those committing the most egregious offenses.
Overall in fiscal 2014-15, the commission successfully prosecuted 7,763 cases, bringing in a little more than $1.62 million in fines, Grohol said. It was also awarded nearly $180,000 in replacement costs – additional fines levied for the taking of trophy class animals – and nearly $49,000 in restitution fees.
Those latter two classes of dollars represent money the commission wasn’t allowed to collect before a change in the law six years ago.
“That really has put an added oomph to our penalties,” Grohol said.
He also pointed out that officers handed out nearly13,000 warnings in fiscal 2014-15, almost two for every citation.