BOSTON- The Senate on Thursday, June 19 passed legislation filed by Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) increasing penalties for poaching. Poaching is the illegal harming or killing of wildlife such as killing endangered species, using illegal weapons, using illegal hunting methods such as baiting, killing animals outside of the legal hunting season or trespassing on private land to hunt illegally.

“As a former environmental police officer, I am well aware that the illegal practice of poaching is a serious public safety issue, which has a negative effect on the environment,” said Senator Moore. “Poaching is not only a concern for animal protection advocates and conservationists, but also law-abiding hunters. Poachers cheat the system and gain an unfair advantage over lawful hunters. This bill will give environmental police officers new tools to prevent the crime of poaching and will allow lawful hunters to continue to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of the Commonwealth.”

“We thank Senator Moore for his leadership to combat illegal hunting in the Commonwealth and to ensure that Massachusetts joins the rest of the country in this noble effort,” said Alexis Fox, Massachusetts State Director for the Humane Society of the United States.

The bill increases the penalty for poaching from $300 to $1,000 and up to 6 months imprisonment to $1,000 to $5,000 or/and an imprisonment of up to five years for violating hunting with respect to 3 or more animals within 10 years.

The legislation also requires the Governor to enter into the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, a nationwide law enforcement network. Currently, Massachusetts is one of only 7 states that is not a member or in the process of joining the compact. Modeled after the Driver’s License Compact, which Massachusetts is a member, it allows for reciprocity with other states for the purpose of license suspensions to prevent wildlife violators who have lost their hunting, trapping or fishing privileges from coming to other states to circumvent these license revocations.

Additional provisions include:
• Requiring the borders of wildlife sanctuaries to be posted to provide notice to the public of the designation of the land as a sanctuary;
• Enhances penalties for illegally hunting bears, bobcats and endangered species, including the penalty for hunting bears and bobcats with the aid of a dog or baiting to $1,000 to $5,000 and up to 1 year imprisonment;
• Distinguishes between violations of hunting laws when determining the length of time a license may be suspended; and,
• Any person who hunts, traps or fishes in Massachusetts when the person’s privilege has been revoked anywhere else in the United States or Canada shall be considered a violation of the laws of the Commonwealth.

The bill will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.