By Laura Peters
Jeremy Keegan respects the deer, turkey and squirrels he hunts and the land he hunts them on.
The Timberville man believes in following the rules, but, he also knows that not everyone agrees.
“People that I know and respect ... all share a respect for the animals that we hunt and the environment that we hunt in,” he said. “We understand that not only is it benefiting us, but it’s benefiting Virginia and Virginia wildlife, and that we’re helping control the populations and we are following the regulations in order to protect the animals and the environment.
“I’m not willing to go outside the boundaries of the law to feed my family, and some people are,” Keegan said. “I also think that some people don’t care that much about the laws.”
And that’s why poaching is an increasing problem that is robbing hunters of legitimate prey, circumventing state efforts to manage wildlife and too often scarring the countryside with the carcases of illegally killed animals.
Virginia Conservation Police Offier Chance Bobbs said the number of calls his agency has been getting from the public about poachers has been steadily increasing.
Driving down back roads in Augusta County, many motorists can see what poachers have left behind. The mangled remnants of deer, sometimes in bags, but often simply dumped in the open.
Calls spike in November, but really are heavy throughout the fall and early winter. Arrests also are tough to predict.
“It really fluctuates every year,” he said. “It all depends how good the information is. If we go out on our own and things happen in front of us, we catch them all. But, if we get little bits of information, we don’t always get enough evidence to charge somebody.”
Bobbs said it’s helpful for people to call in and give as much information as possible. But, a lot of people fear retaliation. Bobbs said there is an anonymous tip line.
But aside from investigating a report of someone actively poaching, the police work too often starts with a carcass and it’s up to him to back track from there to find the poacher. More....