The word “poaching” immediately conjures thoughts of massive elephants in Africa killed to have their tusks sawed off and then left to rot, but in the United States poaching is just as deadly and brutal. Wildlife officials estimate that for every wild animal killed legally – tens of millions of animals per year – another is killed illegally. And with scarce wildlife enforcement resources and countless acres of open land, only a scant few percent of poachers are caught and punished for their crimes.
What is Poaching?
First and foremost, it’s a crime! Poaching is a broad term that includes, but is not limited to, smuggling protected animals dead or alive, killing endangered and threatened animals, killing animals out of their hunting season, using illegal weapons, killing animals on closed land, or leading others to kill animals illegally as an unlicensed guide.
The callous details surrounding each poaching case are often chilling. In one Utah case, two teenagers, participating in a group training dogs to chase black bears, shot the mother bear and two cubs that had taken refuge in a tree, and then left the bears abandoned on the ground.
Criminal poaching rings in Montana have a substantial impact on statewide wildlife populations. For example, in two separate organized poaching-ring investigations that came together in 2005, more than 100 mature big game carcasses were found. Each animal was decapitated and the carcass left to rot. More....