WCOs Eye Violators
Inside the Outdoors, February 24
, 2012

Now that we are getting to the end of February, I am reminded that one can no longer fish the Loyalhanna Creek, for example, after February 29th.

In years past, as I recall, once it gets warmer, anglers get the niche of going to the waters to see what they can catch. Since much of the water is hidden by trees, sportsmen think no one will see them. But, waterways conservation officers as well as wildlife conservation officers are keeping a watchful eye out for people who violate the laws set before them.

It was last year that someone was fishing near Murphy’s Bridge on Monastery Drive in Latrobe when a passing WCO noticed the subject trying his luck. He confronted the individual, taking all his fishing gear, box and all related products. Someone even alleged that his vehicle was taken as well.

After hearing about that, I contacted the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and talked to Tom Qualters who said, “We can take it (meaning the equipment) until the fine is paid and then we give it back.”

If there are any illegal possessions, Qualters said, “We confiscate snagging hooks and over-sized nets.”

Since I decided to dig into the subject of violating rules set down by the PFBC, I decided to look into the Pennsylvania Game Commission laws as well and what it has lined up for those who feel it is their privilege to go against the stream of common sense.

The PGC has been active in increasing higher fines and even send violators to prison, if need be. This hasn’t been a recent move. Instead, due to “actors” who think it is perfectly fine to do as they please, something had to be done to curb the problems incurred.

“Act 54 of 2010 was introduced as house Bill 1859, and sponsored by house game and Fisheries Committee Chairman Edward G. Staback. The bill was approved by the House on July 21, 2009, by a vote of 196-3. The Senate after making minor adjustments to the bill, approved the measure unanimously on July 3, 2010, followed by a 189-6 concurrence vote in the House also on July 3, which sent the bill onto Gov. Rendell, who signed it on July 9,” the Commission said.

It seemed to be unanimous. It was realized that something must be done to give the guilty something to think about before taking the wrong step forward.

Even PGC Executive Director Carl G. Roe said, “Increasing penalties for serious violations is one of the operational objectives within the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Strategic Plan. This marks the first comprehensive piece of legislation to increase Game and Wildlife Code penalties since 1987, and we believe it will significantly enhance wildlife protection in the Commonwealth, especially since this marks the first time that some poachers could actually face prison time for their actions.”

Here is where hunters who violate the law ought to think twice.

“Roe noted that, before the passage of this bill, a poacher could kill every big game animal-which includes deer, elk, bear and turkey in Pennsylvania, and the penalty was the legal equivalent of a traffic ticket with no possibility of jail time. Under this legislation, those convicted of killing five or more big game animals, or three big game poaching offenses with seven years, will face possibly 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.” Roe said, “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.”

To illustrate an example, if two individuals went on a two-day poaching spree that resulted in at least eight dead deer, each violator would be looking at up to $15,000 in fines as compared to $6,400 previously, up to three years in prison and up to 15 years of license revocation.

The new law also includes heightened penalties for buying and selling of game; increased fines for summary offenses, such as using unlawful methods or devices; increased penalties for the killing of threatened or endangered species; and increased jail time for non-payment of fines from 120 days to six months.

“The bottom line is that Pennsylvania will no longer be walked on – like a welcome mat – by those who abuse their hunting and trapping privileges in our state,” Roe said.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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