WY Game Wardens Association Calls For Stricter Poaching Penalties

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Casper -(KCWY) "Make sure that the penalty is so severe that people won't want to poach in the first place,” said Representative Gerald Gay from Natrona County.

In Wyoming professional poachers are risking being charged fines for poaching, but it doesn't stop many of them from doing it.

"There are some species here it would be cheaper to poach the animal, pay the fine, than it would be to hire a legitimate outfitter and hunt legitimately,” said Gay.

"People are selling illegal wildlife parts for thousands of dollars, there have been illegal outfitting operations that have made hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a couple years,” said Daniel Beach the legislative liaison for the Wyoming Game Wardens Association.

Currently the state doesn't have one simple comprehensive statute which they can be prosecuted under, if the sale of animal parts goes beyond Wyoming’s borders it usually becomes the federal governments jurisdiction.

"The Wyoming Game Warden's Association really feels that that should be in the hands of the local county prosecutors and game wardens, instead of allowing our wildlife crime decisions to be made by the federal government,” said Beach.

State representative Gay says he is for stricter penalties, but says he isn't convinced this would deter professional poachers from poaching.

"Poaching is almost in the same category as dealing hard drugs, as long as there is money to be made you’re going to have people that feel it's worth wild to do the practice,” said Gay.

Beach says he hopes they can bring any illegal sale of wildlife parts over $1,000 to the felony level, the same as for check fraud of over $1,000.

"The amount of fines, penalties, and restitution as it sits now are only a few thousand dollars,” said Beach.