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Minnesota Governor Proposes Poachers Face Felony Charges

Star Tribune

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton recently proposed tough new penalties for poaching in the North Star State.

The Governor of the great state of Minnesota, Mark Dayton, has officially grown tired with the disrespect of fish and game poachers who seemingly only get a “slap on the wrist” for their offenses, and now he’s ready to take action against it.

Under Governor Dayton’s proposal, any felony-level offenses would apply to the unlawful taking of animals with a return value of $2,000 or more, such as:

  • Four or more deer
  • Tw0 or more trophy deer
  • Five or more bears or turkeys
  • 40 or more ducks, geese, pheasants, grouse or salmon
  • 67 or more walleye or northern pike

At the annual meeting of the DNR’s stakeholders, the Governor said, “The recently reported instances of wanton and wasteful poaching in Minnesota should offend the sensibilities of all ethical and law-abiding hunters and anglers”

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Under current Minnesota law, similar serious poaching cases can only be prosecuted as gross misdemeanors, with license revocations up to five years. If anyone needs to ask why the Governor and other like-minded individuals in the state are now calling for such measures, one only needs to look at the record in Minnesota.

In 2015, one poacher was convicted of taking 13 deer in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge and the Sand Dunes State Forest.

In 2014, an arrest in the west-central part of the state by DNR officers found 28 sets of deer antlers. Officials investigated the case for four years before a nighttime bust caught two men with a freshly-killed buck in their pickup truck.

In 2013, two rare bull elk were killed in the wilderness near Grygla in an area that is closed to hunting. No arrests were made in that case.

Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr says that fish and wildlife poaching aren’t always considered as serious crimes and that may be why similar legislation didn’t pass last year, but Landwehr added, “… poachers steal from all of us”

Recently retired DNR enforcement chief Ken Soring noted that stealing $1,000 from a resident is a felony in Minnesota, but stealing $5,000 worth of fish and wildlife is not. In the same way, a person who cuts and steals $1,000 worth of timber is prosecuted as a felon in the state, but a poacher who kills wildlife worth five times as much isn’t.

The fact remains that poaching is a scourge to people in all states and combating it is no easy task. Any legislation that is enacted has to be enforced and wildlife officers often find themselves stretched by the limitations of their office.

One of the best ways to stop poaching is an active hunting and fishing population that has an eye for what’s happening and knowledge of their state’s game laws. If seen, law-breaking “outdoorsmen” should be immediately reported to the authorities.


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Minnesota Governor Proposes Poachers Face Felony Charges