Despite Wyoming's Huge Poaching, Many Wildlife Criminals Get Away  Cowboy State Daily

Despite Wyoming’s Huge Poaching, Many Wildlife Criminals Get Away Cowboy State Daily

***For all things Wyoming, sign up for our daily newsletter***

By Mark Heinz, outdoor journalist
Mark@CowboyStateDaily.com

There’s no way to know how many wildlife are illegally killed in Wyoming and the West, but the number could be huge and cost states tens of millions of dollars, an advocate has said. environment.

“We’re trying to figure out how much (wildlife revenue) is being stolen from each state,” but it’s a daunting task, Justin Spring, director of big game records at the Boone & Crocket Club, told the Cowboy State daily.

Wyoming recently saw the completion of one of its biggest poaching busts of all time.

After a multi-agency investigation dating back to 2015, Russell Vick of Alabama, Robert Underwood of Oklahoma and his son, David Underwood of South Dakota, were sentenced to a cumulative fine of $171,230 and restitution of $131,000, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The Underwoods are former residents of Gillette.



Only a fraction

Their killing may only represent a fraction of the poaching that is taking place in Wyoming and other states, Spring said.

“We need to understand where this is happening,” he said. “Is this a target of opportunity? What are the real motivations of people who do it?

In-depth research

B&C dove deep into the study of poaching and its effects on wildlife conservation, the justice system and hunting reputation, Spring said. B&C is recognized in the hunting community for promoting ethical hunting, conservation and accurate big game trophy scoring, and record keeping.

With its Poach and Pay program, B&C, along with other organizations, is trying to get a clear picture of the scale, monetary costs and other effects of poaching in the United States, Spring said.

For example, research indicates that between 2006 and 2017, up to 98% of the poaching that took place in Kentucky may have gone unnoticed. It could have cost that state about $43.2 million in potential wildlife-related revenue, according to B&C.

Wyoming and other states are likely to suffer similarly egregious poaching losses, Spring said.

What motivates poachers?

Some poachers kill animals simply for the “bragging rights” of a trophy on their ill-gotten gains, according to a study done for the Poach & Pay program by Jonathan Gassett of the Wildlife Management Institute.

Poor people may illegally kill game because they need food, while others take animals for commercial gain – selling animal parts or products on the black market

Spring wouldn’t speculate on what drove Vick and the Underwoods to illegally slaughter many Wyoming animals for several years. Game and Fish’s reports of their crimes do not indicate that they were trying to sell trophies or animal parts on the black market.

Game and fishing officials were unavailable for comment on Tuesday.

While trafficking in poached animal products is common in other parts of the world, it’s unclear to what extent it’s happening in the United States, Spring said.

“There have been cases of poaching in western states where bear parts were traded,” he said.

Difficult to pursue

Poaching is a blight on hunting as a whole because it tarnishes public perceptions, Spring said.

“The average person doesn’t necessarily know enough to tell the difference between legitimate hunters and poachers,” he said, adding that it can give the impression that hunters in general wantonly slaughter wildlife.

Additionally, it can be difficult to get the justice system to punish poachers as harshly as many hunters think they should be, Spring said.

“Some of the problems we encounter are legal,” he said. “If someone is in court for deliberately shooting two ducks over the legal limit, it won’t attract the attention that some other crimes do.”

Usually they are lightly punished

Poachers often receive lighter sentences than other criminals, even though they are essentially thieves and should be treated as such, said Josh Coursey, a resident of the Spring and Kemmerer area.

Coursey is the co-founder, president and CEO of Muley Fanatics, as well as co-chair of the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force.

Although Vick has been sentenced to up to two years in the Wyoming state prison system, it’s all too rare for poachers to end up behind bars, Coursey told the Cowboy State Daily.

“Poaching is about the only crime in the United States where you can use a gun, but usually don’t end up in jail for it,” he said.

***For all things Wyoming, sign up for our daily newsletter***


#Wyomings #Huge #Poaching #Wildlife #Criminals #Cowboy #State #Daily

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *