Replacement-value poaching fees OK’d

Harrisburg – Pennsylvania game commissioners covered a long list
of business items at their January quarterly meeting – and some of
them made headlines – but for Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Wilkes-
Barre, one item stood out above all the others.

The board took a preliminary step to establish replacement costs
that may be assessed on those convicted of illegally killing
wildlife in the state. If approved by the commissioners at their
April meeting, the regulations would specify replacement values for
certain species illegally killed.

“To me, as a commissioner, this is the most important issue we
face,” Delaney said after the vote. “We are sending a loud and
clear message to poachers. This will be a deterrent to protect our
wildlife in Pennsylvania.”

Under the proposal, a judge or district justice would be able to
assess anyone convicted of illegally killing the following species
a replacement cost of: $5,000 for any endangered or threatened
species; $1,500 for an elk or bear; $800 for a deer; $500 for a
bobcat or river otter; $300 for a wild turkey or beaver; and $200
for any other wildlife.

Additionally, if the following big-game species were a “trophy
class animal,” judges would be able to require a replacement cost
of $5,000 for an elk with a minimum Boone & Crockett
green-score of 200 points; a deer with a minimum Boone &
Crockett green-score of 115; or a bear with a field-dressed weight
of more than 350 pounds.

Delaney amended the proposal to add the word “green” to describe
the antler scoring. “We don’t want to have to wait until the
antlers dry out, so we will add the word green so as not to delay
prosecutions,” he said.

“The replacement costs would be levied on top of those fines and
penalties already specified in the Game and Wildlife Code, which
may only be changed by the state Legislature, explained Rich
Palmer, director of the Game Commission’s bureau of wildlife
protection.

“In addition to this action by the board, we are, once again,
asking the General Assembly to consider legislation that would
increase the fines and penalties for poaching,” he said.

In another important action, commissioners instituted the
requirement that mentors in the agency’s mentored youth hunting
program must obtain a $1 permit for each youth they plan to take
under their wing.

The permit, which can be obtained from any issuing agent, will
include official big-game tags for antlered deer and spring
gobblers. Thanks to the agency’s launch of its electronic license
sale system, the permit will allow the commission to begin
gathering data about the level of participation in the mentored
youth hunting program.

After the vote, Commissioner Tom Boop, of Union County, lamented
that some people misunderstand the need for the mentored youth
permit and regard it as a barrier to participation.

“But it is not a barrier at all. This is what was originally
proposed when the mentored youth hunting program was started, and
we are now able to do it to monitor the success of the program,” he
said.

For 2009-10, the list of eligible game for those youths under
the age of 12 participating in the mentored youth hunting program
is squirrels, groundhogs, coyotes, spring gobblers and antlered
deer. Mentored youths can participate in both the junior-only
seasons for squirrels and spring gobblers, as well as the general
seasons for all five species.

“When we first started the mentored youth hunting program, we
didn’t require a permit because there was no method available to
issue a permit without creating an enormous obstacle for
participants,” said Carl Roe, agency executive director. “With the
full roll-out of our electronic license sale system ready for the
2009-10 license year, we can provide a method for adult mentors to
enable youth to obtain a permit without too many difficulties.

“By implementing the permit for the program, we will be able to
start gathering data about the level of participation, which can be
used to assist in better planning and scheduling our basic
hunter-trapper education courses.”

The database of mentored youth hunting program participants will
show how many young hunters are approaching 11 years of age, and
where they live, Roe noted.

So far, the commission has used its annual Game-Take Survey to
estimate the level of participation in the mentored youth hunting
program. According to that measure, both youth and adult
participation in the program has increased.

In 2006, the first year of the program, according to the
commission, 43,780 youths were mentored by 32,913 adults. That
year, the mentored youths harvested 52,788 squirrels and 36,351
groundhogs.

In 2007, the commission reports, the number of mentored youths
grew to 58,883, and there were 51,141 adult mentors. That year,
mentored youths harvested 61,160 squirrels, 52,114 groundhogs,
5,199 antlered deer and 3,496 spring gobblers.

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