Contact: Kent Keene, Lower Midwestern States Coordinator
On July 11, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed House Bill 260, nicknamed the “Poaching Bill,” into law.
Sponsored by Missouri Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus member Representative Jered Taylor, HB 260 is a significant step forward for protecting Missouri’s natural resources by combatting poaching activities. The bill significantly increases the civil penalties associated with the illegal pursuit or harvest of certain game species. Specifically, the bill creates additional fines associated with poaching wild turkey, antlered white-tailed deer, black bear, elk, and paddlefish.
HB 260 grants Missouri courts the ability to order the following penalties upon conviction of charges related to chasing, pursuing, killing, processing, or disposing of game:
The civil penalties outlined in HB 260 are considered restitution to the state of Missouri. Unlike revenue collected through permit sales, fine money is not directed to the Department of Conservation. Instead, fines will be transferred to the state school fund to be distributed amongst the public school districts.
HB 260 represents the state’s interest in protecting its wildlife and hunting heritage. Of particular note are the lofty fines associated with poaching elk and black bear, two species undergoing intensive restoration efforts. The Missouri Department of Conservation recently announced tentative plans to host its first elk hunt as soon as 2020.
Increasing penalties for poachers is an important issue for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. In addition to the detrimental effects that poaching has on wildlife populations, poachers tarnish the reputation of the sportsmen’s community when they are misrepresented as hunters by the media. Steps to dissuade poaching activities are widely supported by members of the sportsmen’s community who recognize the benefits for our game species, as well as our opportunities to legally pursue them.
In Missouri, poaching reports should be directed to a local conservation agent, or to Operation Game Thief.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?