When I think about the word poacher I think of a thief, and no one likes a thief. Whether you are a hunter, angler or wildlife watcher these thieves are stealing from you, your sons and daughters and your grandsons and granddaughters.
The majority of the sporting public we contact believes poaching is the taking of an animal during the closed season. Some justify it with the thought that someone needed meat. In my thirteen years as an officer I’ve had one case of an individual needing meat. Unfortunately the poacher shot a 28 inch 4x4 mule deer buck that any honest hunter would have been proud to harvest. Truth be told poaching is taking of an animal in violation of any fair chase rules or ethical means.
As a Conservation Officer for the past 13 years, to say the word poacher comes up in conversation would be an understatement. Many times it is used like in this example: “Is poaching really bad this year?”
How do I answer that? I’m one officer with a narrow view out the windshield of my patrol vehicle. Sure I catch my fair share of poachers, you bet. A better way to look at this very question is to review some of the information that Regional Conservation Officer Mark Hill is compiling. RCO Hill has started a project to enumerate animals taken unlawfully, or poached.
According to Regional Conservation Officer’s Hill’s research during the fall hunting season in the Clearwater Region, officers have documented 105 poached animals. As disturbing as those numbers are, they represent only the violations officers detected. Studies over the last quarter century have shown that detection rates for wildlife violations are as high as 10% and as low as 1%. If we quickly do some math, you will see with a detection rate of 10% that the projected number of animals poached in the Clearwater Region during 2013 is quite staggering: Elk (30 detected, 300 based on 10 percent detection rate), moose (4, 40), mule deer (13, 130), whitetail (57, 570).
These numbers represent a variety of violations including: hunting closed season, spotlighting, wasting game meat, tag transfers, shooting from the road and trespassing; all forms of poaching.
You’re probably asking yourself: what is it that a conservation officer does all fall if detection rates are so low? I for one patrol approximately 1200 square miles. As best as I do to paint the picture that I’m behind every tree, it just isn’t happening.
In total the state of Idaho has 83 conservation officers in the field on any given day.
These cases scratch the surface of what is an average fall. To say poaching is any worse this year or the last is hard to tell, in any event we have a very serious problem. Unfortunately poaching is a chronic problem plaguing our fish and wildlife resources.
You can help conservation officers protect the state’s wildlife resources, catching poachers by reporting violations to Citizens Against Poaching at 1-800-632-5999, your local Sheriff’s Office or an Idaho Department of Fish and Game regional office.