Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

All is not fine with fish/wildlife penalties

Paula PiattThere are some things that just make you shake your head. State and law enforcement bureaucracy is one of them. I get the fact that wildlife law enforcement officers have a job to do – and an important one. They are the final keepers of our resource and I’m not above giving them a call when it would help the cause.

A recent Cuffs and Collars item, however, made me wonder just how long this is sustainable. It wasn’t from New York, but it could have just as easily been an ECO in the Adirondacks ferreting out a poacher or an officer in the Bronx trying to catch an illegal fish monger.

Either way, it’s a losing proposition.

The conservation officer is out on patrol during fishing season and while he’s on the way to check an angler for license compliance, he happens along a plastic bag thrown away as litter. Since that’s a violation, he checks the bag to find someone purchased two licenses and some bait – actually a good thing that they bought the license, bad that they threw the bag in the weeds.

So the officer goes to the store where the purchases were made. They are unable to get him any names from the purchase, but they trolled through security tapes made that day and he was able to get photos.

With the pictures in hand, he goes back to the office and plows through the license database and match the license purchase time with the types of licenses that were bought. Once he got the customer ID and he had the photo, he tracked down the suspect, a woman who admitted that she bought the items and left the trash behind. After she apologized, the officer issued her a summons for littering.

For $55.

Really?

I’ll bet your head is shaking, too.

Now, I don’t know what conservation officer salaries run in this particular state, but I do know that it cost more – a LOT more – than $55 to nab this “criminal.” It probably cost that in gas for the officer to make all the stops involved to track down and ticket the violator.

Even the court costs – an additional fine of $100 which doesn’t even go to the wildlife division involved and is almost twice the fine – wouldn’t cover the time and effort involved in solving the case.

I’m certainly not saying that conservation officers shouldn’t ticket people for littering and I’m certainly not knocking the officer for doing just what he is trained to do – use law enforcement protocols to bring these people to justice. It was a good piece of detective work to track that lady down.

But how long can that go on? Spending more and making less. In some states, it’s worth the gamble – fishing or hunting without a license – because if you get caught, the fines and penalties can be less than the cost of the license. And when was the last time you saw someone serve jail time for a serious offense? Most of the time it’s a suspended sentence and they take the license away (which, in many cases, didn’t stop them from poaching in the first place.)

I think we need to take our wildlife laws a little more seriously and set the fines and penalties accordingly. There’s more than one way to look at “sustainable” wild resources.

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