Does the penalty for poaching a bald eagle and a mule deer fit the crime?
Utah man Logan Erickson was found guilty of poaching a bald eagle and mule deer buck in 2013. The conviction came in 2016 after Erickson had returned from a mission trip he embarked upon shortly after the shootings occurred.
In 2013, Erickson shot both animals and left them to rot in the field. He did take the antlers of the mule deer, but the meat was left to spoil.
The illegal activity was reported to Utah Division of Wildlife personnel and they were able to collect ballistic evidence that would eventually link Erickson with the crimes. Tips from residents also helped to land a conviction.
DWR officers recognized, "This case, along with many others, might not have been discovered and investigated without information received from the public."
For poaching a bald eagle and mule deer buck Erickson was fined $1,400 by the state and set free.
Although bald eagles are no longer endangered they are still protected by federal law. Erickson's punishment for the bald eagle poaching is right in line with the regulations. A misdemeanor offense can have a maximum penalty of $5,000 or one year imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. Felony offenses carry heavier consequences.
In the opinion of this author the punishment surely doesn't seem to fit the crime. In fact he doesn't even come close to the maximum fine for just poaching of a bald eagle. He was fined an average of $700 per species. Heck, in some states $700 will barely cover the cost of an out-of-state mule deer tag. Also, Erickson's actions don't appear to be the actions of a repentant man. He shot and killed a bald eagle and left it lay. Then some time later he shot a mule deer and left him lay. I have to believe that had he not left on a mission trip, he would have continued to shoot animals and leave them lay. At least that's how the trail reads to me.
With all the legislation surrounding hunting, fishing, and trapping activities these days it can seem a little overwhelming to stay between the lines at times. People also do make honest mistakes when it comes to all sorts of wildlife laws. In my experience Game and Fish personnel have always been easy to work with and understanding of simple oversights. A guy like Erickson though seems to disregard the law completely, why would they go easy on him?
There is always the possibility there is more to this story than meets the eye. Perhaps that is the reason Utah law enforcement was lenient on the poacher. With hunting seasons fast approaching we are likely to see more stories unfold of poachers with a blatant disregard for game laws in place.