New bill would make poachers pay restitution

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COLUMBIA – A new Senate bill would force people who poach wildlife to pay for it, literally, by putting money into an education fund.

Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, R-Jefferson City, reintroduced the bill after two elk were killed near the Log Yard area of Shannon County Feb. 8. An elk calf had been killed there in January.

“These callous acts should demonstrate to all Missourians the need for harsher poaching penalties,” Bernskoetter said.

He said, under current Missouri law, the maximum fine for poaching can actually be smaller than the cost of buying a proper hunting or fishing license.

“This has prompted some poachers to simply take their chances rather than pay for a permit,” Bernskoetter said.

Lucas McClamroch, Missouri conservation agent, agreed fines should be more and said he doesn't understand why poachers do what they do.

"In this day and age, we know right from wrong and we know what were doing it and how were doing it," he said. "Conservation is not a relatively new term and hunting laws have been around for almost 100 years." 

The restitution proposed under Senate Bill 356 would go to the state's education fund:

  •  $2,500 to $5,000 for poaching black bear or elk
  •  $1,000 to $2,000 for poaching white-tailed deer
  •  $500 to $1,000 for poaching paddlefish
  •  $375 to $750 for poaching wild turkey

 The elk population in Missouri was restored in 2011, conservationists say. Since then, there have been five known elk poaching incidents, none of which have been solved.

“I’m a hunter too," Bernskoetter said. "I think we should preserve the animals for people who want to do it the right way."