Friday, May 02, 2008

State hits Utahans for poaching wildlife on AZ Strip

Poaching is unethical

KINGMAN -- The Arizona Game and Fish Commission was right to recently fine and revoke the privileges of three Utah residents for spotlighting wildlife (black-tailed jackrabbits), littering, and hunting without a license on the Arizona Strip.

During their April meeting, the commission revoked the individual hunting, trapping, and fishing privileges of Stephen Holt, Blake Obershaw, and Gregory Holt for five years. The three men were also civilly assessed $500 each for the loss of the wildlife they took illegally. In addition, Arizona is part of the nationwide Wildlife Violator Compact, meaning any individual that is revoked in the state also loses their hunting, trapping and fishing rights in 29 other member states.

"The commission feels that no matter what type of wildlife is taken, the individuals committing the crime should be held responsible for the loss of a public-owned resource," says Arizona Game and Fish Commissioner Bob Hernbrode. "You need to be familiar with our laws if you hunt in Arizona."

The violations were discovered during a night patrol effort conducted by Game and Fish wildlife officers. The officers observed the individuals using a spotlight and shooting at wildlife. After conducting an investigation, the three men were charged with hunting black-tailed jackrabbits at night with artificial light, littering while hunting, and taking wildlife without a license. They were also found to be intoxicated and the driver was arrested for DUI. A Moccasin Justice Court judge found the violators guilty and ordered them to pay $750 in fines, and they will remain on probation until the fines are paid in full.

"These types of activities represent a disturbing disregard for wildlife laws and for the resource, and these are criminal activities, not hunting," says Hernbrode. "Legal and ethical hunters appreciate when the people who commit these acts are held accountable.

Civil penalties, and license revocations and suspensions are a separate process from any criminal penalties that a Justice Court may impose. They are initiated by an officer filing criminal charges against a wildlife violator through the Justice Court system. If the individual is found guilty and has been cited with a revocable offense, they must then go through the revocation process and appear before the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. The commission makes the final decision on whether someone loses their hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges and for how long. It is not intended to be punitive, but it is established to recover the loss of the value of the wildlife to the state.

"When a case like this wraps up, it makes all of our efforts worthwhile," says Arizona Game and Fish Department Wildlife Manager Luke Thompson. "We hear about this type of activity going on and we are glad when we can catch a poacher in the act. It will hopefully send a strong message to others and prevent them from committing a wildlife crime."

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