S. 2182 (formerly S. 464, H. 2918, H. 3021): An Act further regulating the enforcement of illegal hunting practices
MSPCA Position: Support
Sponsors: Senator Michael Moore, Representatives Ferrante, Ehrlich, and Atkins
Status: Click Here
S. 2182 enacts long overdue reforms to protect our state’s wildlife, our citizens, and our economy while enhancing government efficiency. The bill increases penalties for poaching and enters the Commonwealth into the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact.
What is poaching?
Poaching — the illegal harming or killing of wildlife — is a serious problem across the country and right here in Massachusetts. Poaching includes killing endangered species, using illegal weapons, using illegal hunting methods such as baiting, killing animals outside of the legal hunting season, or hunting in a wildlife sanctuary. According to the Environmental Police, there were 2,417 recorded hunting violations in Massachusetts from 2009-2012. In December 2015, hikers found the mutilated carcasses of two deer and a black bear, with a slash mark on the bear’s abdomen possibly indicating that the animal’s gall bladder had been removed for sale on the black market. The Environmental Police are also investigating the death of a moose found illegally shot in Belchertown in December. It’s illegal to shoot moose in the Commonwealth, but the Police have received 19 reports of moose shootings in the past 5 years. In February, Massachusetts and Vermont officials made an arrest in Westfield in connection with an alleged moose poaching incident that occurred in Vermont earlier this year. Officers seized a rifle and other items, and charges were filed in both states. Fish poaching is also a common problem along the coast.
Who are poachers?
Poachers are the foes of animal protection advocates, conservationists, and lawful hunters alike. They cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage over sportsmen. Poaching threatens the welfare and conservation of native species that are important to our ecosystem and our economy. Law enforcement officials report that poachers are rarely, if ever, breaking the law to put food on the table. In fact, those charged with poaching crimes frequently have expensive trucks and weapons.
Supporting law enforcement
Massachusetts has just 110 Environmental Police Officers to cover wildlife law enforcement for the entire Commonwealth. These officers are highly skilled and work tirelessly, but they cannot be everywhere at once. The key to getting poaching under control is to deter the crimes before they happen. Adequate penalties are imperative for deterring illegal hunting activity. Fines that amount to little more than a slap on the wrist are just the cost of doing business for poachers.
Elevated penalties for poaching crimes
This bill elevates Massachusetts’ penalties for poaching to bring them in line with penalties in other states. The penalties will provide adequate deterrence for would-be poachers and bring to justice those who illegally exploit wildlife and cheat ethical hunters and other Commonwealth citizens. The bill elevates fines, jail time, and license suspensions for existing laws. It also creates heightened penalties for chronic poachers and those who kill animals for pure thrill, to give the Environmental Police an additional tool to target those who intentionally and repeatedly disregard the laws in place to protect wildlife.
The Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact
Additionally, this legislation would bring Massachusetts into a nationwide law enforcement network known as the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Massachusetts is one of just four states that have not passed legislation to join. Modeled after the equally successful Driver’s License Compact, the Compact has been assisting state wildlife law enforcement for more than 25 years. It allows for reciprocity with other states for the purposes of license suspensions. It would prevent wildlife violators who have lost their hunting, trapping, or fishing privileges in member states from coming to Massachusetts to circumvent their license revocations. Not only would it end our state’s status as a “poacher’s paradise,” it would also prevent Massachusetts residents who have lost their licenses from going out of state to evade punishment.
When a poacher has their hunting, fishing, and/or trapping privileges legally suspended in a state that is a member of the Compact, the suspension may be recognized by all other compact member states. The violation is treated as if it happened in the violator’s home state for purposes of license suspension and due process. Suspension information is shared between states via an electronic database.