Minnesota lawmakers push for increased penalties and higher fines for poaching.
Following a 35 percent increase in hunting citations, lawmakers debate for higher fines and stronger penalties for poaching in the 2016 Minnesota Legislative session.
Acts of poaching in Minnesota have made state and national news in the past few years due to some high profile cases involving a record-setting buck, multiple elk from the state's already small herd, and the illegal taking of a black bear by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, who would later gain worldwide scorn for a lion hunt in Africa. In 2015 alone, Minnesota law enforcement officers issued 3,900 citations and warnings, a number up 35 percent from the previous year.
"The recently reported instances of wanton and wasteful poaching in Minnesota should offend the sensibilities of all ethical and law-abiding hunters and anglers," Gov. Mark Dayton said in an interview. "They are shameful criminal acts, and they should be treated as serious offenses by Minnesota laws."
Governor Dayton aims to have poaching upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony offense for lawbreakers who take a animal above a restitution value of $2,000. With the change to poaching as a felony, it would also be easier for the state to take both firearms and hunting privileges away from offenders.
In comparison to other states, Minnesota has been far below the national average in the amount of fines it charges lawbreakers. In the 2015 Quality Deer Management Associations Whitetail Report , the organization found that the minimum poaching fine in Minnesota was $185, while nearby Wisconsin and Iowa's minimum fines were $1000 and $1500 respectively.
According to the QDMA report, Minnesota is also well below the national average of $350 dollars for a first offense.