Missouri House proposes increased fines for poaching

It’s cheaper for a non-Missourian to come into the state, poach an animal, and pay the fine for that, than it is to buy an out-of-state hunter tag.  The Missouri House has voted to change that.

Representative Jered Taylor (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House voted to send to the Senate House Bill 260, which would increase the fines for poaching wild turkeys, deer, elk, black bears, or paddlefish in Missouri.

“What I want to do is I want to make people think twice before they pull the trigger,” said bill sponsor Jered Taylor (R-Republic).

The bill would increase to between $500 and $1000 the fine for poaching a wild turkey or paddlefish; between $2000 and $5000 the fine for poaching a white-tailed deer; and between $10,000 and $15,000 the fine for poaching a black bear or elk.

Missouri in 2011 began bringing elk into the state from Kentucky with an aim of reestablishing the population of the animal here, and an eventual goal of having an elk hunting season.  The Department of Conservation says elk hunting could begin as early as next year and that could bring millions of dollars into the state, but Taylor said poaching is hurting the chances of that happening, and the current fines for poaching are not a deterrent.

“We’re spending on average about $30- to $40-thousand dollars per elk when we brought them back to Missouri to reintroduce them and the penalty to poach an elk is about $150 to $200 right now, if you’re caught,” said Taylor.

The poaching of paddlefish has been very lucrative because paddlefish roe is often sold on the black market as caviar.  This means one fish can be worth thousands of dollars.

St. Louis Representative Tracy McCreery (D) said she was glad to see the bill includes increased fines for poaching those fish.

“Paddlefish used to be abundant in the State of Missouri … now the reason they’re in Missouri is because we’re spending taxpayer money for stocking them … yet the fines for poaching them – for stealing them – are so low that people from out of state are willing to come in to steal paddlefish that is being purchased with taxpayer money,” said McCreery.

When a fine is collected under HB 260 that money would go to the school district in which the poaching incident occurred.

The House voted 149-10 to send the bill to the Senate.

Similar legislation was sent to the Senate last year and referred to a committee, but it did not receive a hearing.