Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

A sure-fire cure for wildlife poaching

Is the ivory really worth dying for?

If recent events are any indication, the Kenyan government is through messing around with poachers who kill elephants.

In two separate incidents, Kenyan wildlife agents shot dead three poachers in the past week. If that seems a little harsh, consider that ivory poachers often shoot back. Such was the case in at least one of the two incidents.

Reuters Africa has the full story.

One thing’s for sure; the three men who were killed will never poach again. The recidivism rate for dead poachers is exactly zero.

Hunting video haunts country music star

A screen capture from the video

In this age of instant electronic communications, it amazes me that some people haven’t yet learned to keep their illegal acts to themselves.

The latest case in point: Troy Gentry of the popular Montgomery Gentry country-music duo. An animal-welfare group has obtained a court order that allowed them to post video of Gentry taking part in an illegal bear kill.

Gentry killed the 600-pound black bear three years ago in a 3-acre pen on a Minnesota game preserve. He paid the bear’s owner more than $4,000 for the privilege of shooting it. For some strange reason, Gentry made a point of having the “hunt” videotaped, and staged the event to make it appear as if the bear had been killed in the wild.

The law caught up with Gentry when he falsely claimed to have killed the bear in a location several miles distant from the game farm. Gentry paid a $15,000 fine and lost his Minnesota hunting privileges for five years.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service confiscated the video. An animal-welfare group called SHARK — Showing Animals Respect and Kindness — sued to have it released. The group won, and on Monday posted the footage on YouTube.

I’m sure Gentry believed he had put the incident behind him. Now he knows a truism we bloggers deal with daily: Seasons come and go, but the Internet is forever.

It’s one thing to talk the talk. Jim Karpowitz walked the talk.

Karpowitz, director of the Utah Division of Wildlife, struck a blow for hunting ethics recently when he called up wildlife law enforcement officers and asked them to write him a ticket.

He had been hunting sage grouse on a ranch near the borders of Rich and Morgan counties. After his hunt, he discovered that he had killed two grouse in Morgan County. His permit was good only for Rich County. The border was unmarked, and Karpowitz was unaware that he had crossed the boundary until afterward.

When he found out he had crossed the line, literally and figuratively, he asked to be cited for the incident. He also wrote all 500 Division of Wildlife employees to acknowledge his transgression. This week, Karpowitz pleaded guilty to the citation’s charges and was fined $138.

In a time when public officials consistently seek to avoid responsibility for illegal, immoral or unethical actions, Karpowitz readily assumed responsibility and accepted the consequences. Good for him.

My friend Brett Prettyman has the full story in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Park officials with the 24-point buck

Add Steve Harmon of Dunlap, Tenn., to the list of poachers done in by their own braggadocio.

After poaching a huge 24-point buck from Pyramid State Park in southern Illinois, Harmon just couldn’t contain himself. He sent cell-phone photos of the kill to some of his friends.

Later, he went and bought an Illinois buck tag. After he bought the tag, he checked in the trophy buck.

Long story short, he got caught. A Tennessee conservation officer later caught Harmon hunting in his home state without a license. He found it odd that Harmon would have an Illinois license and not have a Tennessee license. The officer did some checking and found Harmon’s cell-phone photos of the 24-pointer. He called Illinois conservation officers and learned that Harmon had purchased the buck license after the cell-phone photos were taken.

Busted! Harmon was fined and was forced to give up the mount he’d had made of the buck. The mount was recently returned to Pyramid State Park, where it will be kept on display.

The full story is here, in the Chattanoogan.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

Feds crack down on alleged poaching operation

A Fed crackdown on poaching?

Are Monday’s federal charges against two Kansas deer-hunting outfitters a legitimate attempt to go after big-game poaching, or is it — as the defendants’ lawyer called it — “our tax money … being spent making federal cases out of alleged rednecks who supposedly harvest an extra deer?”

The charges center on 60 hunters who paid 3,500 to $5,000 for deer hunts at the Camp Lone Star hunting club in Coldwater, Kan. The 23-count indictment alleges that the hunters illegally killed 119 deer between 2005 and 2008. The total included 70 trophy whitetails.

The most serious charges were brought against James Butler, 41, who owns Camp Lone Star; and his brother Marlin Butler, 36,  who serves as a guide at the facility.

The brothers are accused of conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act, a federal law that prohibits the interstate transportation of illegally killed wildlife. If convicted, the Butlers face lengthy jail terms and serious fines.

The complete Associated Press story can be found here.

Deer poachers should really avoid Facebook

Photo courtesy Fla. Fish and Wildlife

Time after time, I am boggled by the realization that criminals are often so stupefyingly stupid.

Latest cases in point: Two Florida residents, a man and a woman, who cooperated to poach a deer and were caught when the woman posted the accompanying photo on her Facebook page.

Whoopsie!

Law enforcement officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission appreciated the tip. They arrested the two and fined them.

The full story is here, in the FWC’s news release.

Amazing.

Pennsylvania cracks down on poachers

Wildlife law enforcement in Pennsylvania got a boost recently when serious new anti-poaching laws went into effect.

The laws dramatically increase fines, jail sentences and license-revocation terms for people who illegally kill deer, bears, turkeys and other game animals.

Carl Roe, executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the laws were enacted primarily to deter potential violators from even considering the idea of poaching. He called the penalties prescribed by previous laws “the equivalent of a traffic ticket with no possibility of jail time.”

“Some chronic or commercial poachers considered Pennsylvania’s previous fines as merely a ‘cost of doing business,'” Roe said. “”Under this [new] legislation, those convicted of killing five or more big game animals, or three big game poaching offenses within seven years, will face possible felony-level penalties ranging from $1,000 to up to $15,000, loss of license privileges for 15 years, and up to three years in prison. In fact, even the poaching of a single deer now carries a minimum of a $1,000 fine and up to 90 days in jail, with five years license revocation.”

The complete Game Commission news release can be found here, at the Digital Journal.

Maybe poachers will think twice now

Every once in a while, a news item comes along that makes you feel a little better about the world.

Late last week, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources got its first conviction under a new law designed to protect trophy bucks from poachers. Two men, 22-year-old Mike Chapman of Aurora and an unnamed juvenile from Tucker County, were fined $2,414.80 for shooting and killing a buck out of season.

The buck’s antlers — though still in velvet — measured nearly 16 inches at their widest point. The antlers’ size allowed Chapman and the juvenile to be prosecuted under the state’s new anti-poaching law, which requires higher replacement costs for bucks with bigger antlers.

The old law required a blanket $200 replacement fee for a deer of any size. The new law requires a supplemental $1,000 fee for a buck with antlers with spreads of 14 to 16 inches, $1,500 for bucks with spreads from 16 to 18 inches, $2,000 for bucks with spreads from 18 to 20 inches, and $2,500 for bucks with spreads greater than 20 inches.

Maybe now poachers will think twice before pulling the trigger.

Deer importer’s penalties total $485k

Justice served

I’ll bet James Schaffer of Charleston, S.C., regrets the day he paid to have 54 white-tailed deer illegally trucked in from Ohio.

In 2009, Ohio authorities slammed Schaffer with $250,000 in fines and penalties. Yesterday, a U.S. District Court hit him with an additional $235,000 fine for violations of the federal Lacey Act.

In addition, Schaffer will have to serve six months’ electronically monitored home confinement and will have to donate 500 hours’ worth of public service to South Carolina’s state park system.

The Charleston Post and Courier has the full story.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at The Outdoor Pressroom.

Pirates of the Rio Grande?

As if the situation along the U.S.-Mexican border weren’t testy enough, now we have reports of bass fishermen being shaken down by rifle-wielding pirates.

At least three times since April 30,  anglers on Falcon Reservoir, a popular Rio Grande bass lake, have encountered boatloads of heavily armed Mexicans. The alleged banditos approached the fishermen’s boats, brandished AK-47s or AR-15s, and demanded money.

The San Antonio Express-News has the full story.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher at the Outdoor Pressroom.