Commentary: Taking Aim at Poaching, By Michael O. Moore

by | Dec 31, 2018

As the current legislative session draws to a close, there are a number of important bills sitting just short of the goal line. Among those items includes a bill that would enhance wildlife protections and strengthen penalties against poaching in the Commonwealth. The bill passed the Senate unanimously earlier this year but has yet to receive full approval from the bicameral legislative body.

Many folks would be surprised to learn that poaching, or the illegal killing of wildlife, is taking place here in our local communities. As a former Environmental Police Officer, I have witnessed, firsthand, incidents of poaching that involve some of the most cherished animal populations. You may have seen recent news coverage about an attack on a protected juvenile red-tailed hawk which was found shot in the right wing in the Town Auburn. The beautiful, rare bird had to be euthanized as a result of its severe injuries.

Simply put, many of our illegal hunting penalties are outdated by about a century, and the minimal fines amount to little more than a slap on the wrist that do little to deter poaching. In addition to protecting animals and preserving our environment, this bill also upholds the rights of sportspeople who abide by Massachusetts laws and practice fair chase principles. It’s high time we take action to target illegal hunting practices in our Commonwealth.

In an effort to adequately deter these acts, the legislation elevates existing penalties for individuals convicted of illegally harming or killing wildlife. The legislation also requires the Commonwealth to enter into a nationwide law enforcement network known as the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. You may be surprised to learn that Massachusetts remains one of only two nonmember states—the other being Hawaii. The Compact 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 circumventing license revocations

In the six years this bill has been pending before the Legislature, there has been no recorded opposition to the bill. None. This begs the question, why aren’t we doing more to help protect some of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable animal populations?

Joining the compact would give our Commonwealth’s agencies access to a database of wildlife violators, allowing us to choose to enforce a reciprocal license suspension or revocation, if we have a similar law and penalty. As the only non-member in the continental United States, Massachusetts is a safe-haven for those whose hunting, trapping, or fishing licenses have been suspended or revoked in one or more of the 48 member states.

Join me, the Humane Society of the United States and many other advocates in supporting the passage of this legislation, S.2248, during the current legislative session.