Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

Poaching penalty increase put in bill

Stiffer restitution being considered at state
house

By Frank HincheyContributing Writer

Columbus – Legislative movement is under way that would change
Ohio’s restitution penalties for poaching wildlife for the first
time since 1994.

After a couple of months of discussion between the DNR Division
of Wildlife and legislative leaders, a bill has been introduced in
the Ohio General Assembly by Reps. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, and
Jimmy Stewart, R-Albany.

House Bill 238 seeks to establish a wildlife value formula in
state law to determine restitution and penalties to size and
species of poached animals.

A rash of high-profile poaching busts in the past 18 months
caused natural resource officials as well as lawmakers to
re-examine the penalties paid by those who illegally kill deer,
particularly those trophy animals that are a high-dollar commodity
if they were hunted legally.

After introduction of the bill on May 31, Latta said he would
like ‘to get the poaching bill done and voted on by the end of
June.’

Latta said he has not received any negative feedback through his
constituency.

‘The folks I heard from are supportive. They are law abiding,’
he said. ‘They try to harvest and see game, and, when they fish,
they are not fished out.’

The bill is aimed at protecting recreational hunting and fishing
industry in Ohio valued about $1.5 billion, Latta said.
Out-of-state hunters who come to Ohio for white-tailed deer are
‘bringing dollars to the economy,’ he said. And the legislation
will protect the deer herd’s genes.

‘If you are taking out the big animals before they rut, you will
not have a quality herd out there,’ he said.

‘People need to understand there is a price to pay before they
decide to do the unlawful acts,’ said Jim Lehman, the Division of
Wildlife’s law enforcement administrator.

H.B. 238 would allow the DOW to bring civil suits against
poachers to recover possession of the poached animal or the
restitution value of any wild animal held, taken, bought, sold, or
possessed in violation of Ohio wildlife laws.

As part of its administrative code overhaul, the DOW is
proposing to increase minimum values for state’s wild animals based
on a formula using seven criteria: recreation, aesthetic,
educational, state-list designation, economics, recruitment and
population.

Animals would be given a cumulative score on each of the seven
criteria, and that number would be multiplied by a weighting factor
determined by the overall demand for a species relative to its
existing supply and to future opportunity for public use. The
weighting factor takes into consideration whether the species is
abundant, common or a species of concern, threatened, or
endangered, and assigns a value relative to that designation.

Ohio law presently sets a value of $400 for a white-tailed deer.
Under the DOW proposals, a white-tailed deer that exceeds a 125
Boone and Crockett green score would be valued at $2,500. Refigured
values for other fish and animal species would range from $20 to
$2,500, Lehman said.

Under the new system, a buck that scores 1951/8 would have a
recovery value of more than $14,930.46. An animal that scores 150
B&C would have a recovery value of more than $4,125.

Using just one Ohio hunting preserve for perspective, a paying
hunter might fork over more than $18,000 for a deer that would
score 200 or more, said Lehman. A hunter at that same preserve
would pay $1,800 to harvest an animal in the 120- to 129-inch
range.

With the market bearing prices such as that, poaching a
200-class buck with the possibility of getting caught and paying a
$400 fine might seem like a worthy risk, wildlife officials have
theorized. The new system would make the risk potentially much more
costly.

Another key provision of the legislation would allow the chief
of the Division of Wildlife to hold a hunting license until the
restitution is paid.

Fish species that have management plans such as large and
smallmouth bass, and walleye are being reevaluated as well as
trophy status being considered for fish species such as sauger,
striper, and muskellunge.

Animals such as a wild turkey could increase in value to $500,
Lehman said. Currently, wild turkeys are valued at $300.

The bill was assigned to the House Agriculture and Natural
Resources Committee. As of June 8, no hearings were yet
scheduled.

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