Wednesday, July 14, 2010

State increases penalties for poaching

from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Monday, July 12, 2010

Pennsylvania's laws regarding poaching just became become much stiffer.

House Bill 1859, first proposed by state Rep. Ed Staback, a Lackawanna County Democrat, was passed by the state Senate on July 3. It had earlier made its way through the House of Representatives.

It was signed into law by Gov. Ed Rendell on Friday afternoon.

The bill rewrites much of the penalty section of the Game Code and significantly increases the fines and penalties for illegally killing game, and especially big game. The fine for illegally killing a white-tailed deer out of season or at night would be at least $1,000, rather than the $200 to $300 it is now. Poachers would also face the possibility of a year in jail.

The punishment for shooting more than one deer or for shooting other big game will no longer be a summary violation - the equivalent of a parking ticket. It will instead be a misdemeanor or, in some cases, a felony.

Staback's bill took two years to work its way through the legislature. It's the first time penalties in the Game Code have been updated in decades.

"Finally, the penalties fit the crime," Staback said in a statement.

He likened poaching to theft, as it takes away opportunities from hunters and wildlife watchers.

The legislation also addresses the commercialization of animal parts. Organs and other parts — like the gall bladders of bears, for example — have become hit items on the black market in recent years. Pennsylvania was a "land of opportunity" for poachers who would kill game for specific pieces, he said, because of the low fines and lack of jail time.

The hope is that the new penalties and fines will curb or even prevent that, he said.

One other key provision of the bill deals with mistake kills. Previously, a hunter who shot an illegal deer by mistake — a doe in buck season, or a buck with too few antler points — could turn himself in. The fine could be anywhere from $25 to $500.

The bill sets the penalty for those who turn themselves in at no more than $25 for a deer.

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