For too many poachers, the decision they make to break the law is an economic one. The value of poaching treasured mounts for sale is worth more than fines they’ll will face if they get caught.

That’s not right. It’s time to make poachers more likely to face punishment other than a blow to their wallets.

Wyoming’s game wardens want additional wildlife violations to warrant felonies, and we support their request to lawmakers. The wardens want to make any violation worth over $1,000 a felony. That seems a fair request in Wyoming, a state with a huge outdoors recreation sector, second only to the energy importance in dollar value, and home to unparalleled hunting and fishing opportunities that define our way of life.

It seems clear the state laws in place aren’t strong enough. There are already federal laws for cross-border poaching, but such laws don’t help stop in-state poaching or give state wardens the enforcement tools they need. In past decades, wardens could expect poachers were killing animals for the poacher’s own use. But that’s less likely today. More often, poachers are gathering trophy mounts to sell on the black market, and others are offering unlicensed guiding and outfitting services.

We respect a request from the Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, who want to make sure the law is crafted narrowly to avoid capturing in its net state citizens guilty of taking out-of-state friends and family on Wyoming hunting or fishing adventures. We’re confident it’s possible to write a law to exclude such harmless and worthy activities. Those are not the lawbreakers wardens seek.

Strengthening these penalties would provide the wardens with tools they’ll use. Recall the felony punishment for serial poaching instituted by lawmakers in 2011. In 2012, Colton Lapp of Worland was charged with the crime after he killed four bucks and shot at another. This came after he was twice caught and convicted of poaching. Lapp later pled guilty to three poaching charges and faced boot camp and probation. He also lost his hunting and fishing privileges in Wyoming and 37 other states.

Lawmakers want to consider legislation instituting the wardens’ recent request. We’re glad to see they are. It’s time to replace the patchwork quilt of wildlife violation penalties.

Let’s make wildlife laws clear, harsh and worth avoiding.

(2) comments


There is an even stronger disincentive to dissuade poachers, and it has been on the books since July 1999. For the especially egregious and willfull act of wantonly taking wildlife, allow the prosecutor to demand the perp surrender his tools and toys used in the commission of the act.

Once you start taking away the rifles, the binocs and scopes, and even the pickup truck and ATV used to stalk and kill, this will give the poacher pause. Especially after the Judge demands full restitution for the animal taken. I seem to recall ( and please correct me if wrong) a trophy bull elk can be valued at $ 12,500 , a trophy Bighorn ram at $ 15,000, a trophy Mule Deer at $ 10,000. In Montana, a Bighorn ram issrestituted at $ 30,000. Several states now use a dollar value on big game as part of sentencing. To my mind a grizzly bear should peg at $ 25,000 and a Grey Wolf at $ 10,000 , but I realize those will not be widely acceptable. But still...

The very first time the confiscation of hunting gear was applied up here in Cody , the Game Warden took possession of the perp's red Robertson helicopter. That's right...a helicopter. Don Davis saw his toy go up for auction, and he was forbidden from buying back. His wife bought it instead, and they skipped town without paying all their fines and such , but the principle remains sound. Take away their toys if they are naughty.

If you want to get a feel for the poaching problem in Wyoming, read the website that lists the Wyoming Poacher's Hall of Shame.


Make any person caught poaching buy thirty days fishing with Tim Wade. That's a penalty and Tim would have money to form a self policing agency to clean up his industry. It works so well with the financial industry, and bankers are like guides. They make money off of other's assets

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