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Poachers will pay much greater price

Game Commission takes step to make unlawful taking of wildlife extremely costly.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission Board of Commissioners took a step on Tuesday to making it pretty expensive for anyone caught poaching wildlife in the state.

By a 7-0 vote, the board passed a motion to establish replacement costs for wildlife taken unlawfully. Under the proposal, a judge 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.

But it doesn’t end there.

Judges will also be able to require a $5,000 replacement cost for the following for trophy big game animals: $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.

Previously, the fine for poaching a buck of any size was $300 to $800. Commissioner Jay Delaney, Wilkes-Barre, spearheaded the motion and hoped it will act as a deterrent for poachers.

“We’re growing much larger bucks in Pennsylvania since antler restrictions were enacted, and we have healthy numbers of large bears,” he said. “We value that and all of our wildlife. Hopefully the restitution language will help our Wildlife Conservation Officers and the resource. It basically means if you get caught poaching wildlife in Pennsylvania, you’re going to pay.”

Dan Figured, law enforcement supervisor for the PGC’s Northeast Region, said the restitution language means poachers will not only face the penalties already in the books, but additional civil remedies as well.

Prior to the motion, there were replacement costs for endangered and threatened wildlife, black bear and elk.

“Now it allows us to get replacement costs for all wildlife,” Figured said. “It will be another deterrent for poachers because the replacement costs can be added to the fines and penalties already specified by state legislation.”

The motion states that district magistrates “shall” charge for replacement costs, meaning it is up to them whether or not to go forward with the restitution.

In other business, the PGC board approved the use of crossbows for both the archery deer and bear seasons, effective 2009.

The motion passed by a 4-3 vote with two amendments.

One amendment prohibits the use of magnifying telescopic sights (scopes) on crossbows for the archery deer and bear seasons. Another established a sunset date for the expanded crossbow use that will require the board to vote on the measure again before June 30, 2012.

Delaney, who was also appointed vice-president of the board, was one of the three commissioners who voted against the motion. He felt if crossbows were to be allowed, it should be a slow implementation process that would allow the agency to monitor the situation.

“I just could not go with full inclusion right off the bat,” Delaney said.

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