Virginia and West Virginia: Wanton Waste Legislation Advances

By John Culclasure, Central Appalachian States Manager

Legislation intended to curb poaching by prohibiting wanton waste advanced during the 2019 legislative sessions in both Virginia and West Virginia.

In the Old Dominion, HB 1613 was signed into law on February 27. Sponsored by Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate James Edmunds, the legislation increases the penalty for violating a regulation prohibiting wanton waste adopted by the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries from a Class 3 misdemeanor to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Wanton waste is the killing or crippling of any nonmigratory game bird or game animal and knowingly allowing it to be wasted without making a reasonable effort to retrieve the animal and retain it in possession.

In the Mountain State, West Virginia Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus Co-Chair Delegate Jason Harshbarger and Caucus member Senator Bill Hamilton sponsored, respectively, HB 2540 and SB 305. HB 2540 completed legislative action on March 9, and the bill was sent to the Governor’s desk on March 21. Under the legislation, it would be unlawful to let any edible portion, as defined, of any big game animal or game fish go to waste needlessly. It would also be unlawful to take any big game and remove only the head, hide, antlers, tusks, paws, claws, gallbladder, teeth, beards, or spurs and leave the carcass to waste.

HB 2540 also provides for an exception allowing the aforementioned parts to be removed should the hunter be unable to locate the big game animal prior to spoilage provided an absence of carelessness or neglect and the hunter registers the animal which counts towards their bag limits. In addition to being subject to forfeiture and wildlife replacement cost provisions, violators would be subject to monetary penalties or jail time and hunting and fishing license suspension.

In recent years, many states have taken measures to increase penalties for poaching. While disincentivizing poaching, these bills would also encourage the responsible harvest of game meat.

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