JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Linda Black, R-Park Hills, introduced legislation to the House Agriculture Committee intended to act as a deterrent to poaching of wildlife in the state.
HB 1971 specifies that anyone convicted of chasing, pursuing, taking, transporting, killing, processing, or disposing of wild turkey, white-tailed deer, elk or black bears will have to provide monetary restitution to the state. Each animal earns a different price tag, with turkey garnering just $750, deer at $1,500, and bear and elk at $3,000. That restitution would go to the State School Moneys Fund.
Black said the bill ensures that existing statute has the teeth it needs to deter poachers from operating in Missouri, which has more lax penalties compared to other states like Illinois, Minnesota, Colorado and Montana.
“The wildlife the Conservation Department oversees is publicly entrusted,” Black said at the hearing. “So when someone poaches, they are taking from the citizens of Missouri… [The bill] will just enhance our ability in the state of Missouri to recoup restitution for the resources taken in the state of Missouri.”
Some members of the committee had concerns the bill already essentially existed in statute or that it could make life difficult for farmers and ranchers defending agricultural property, like cattle and soybeans, from predation by increasing the financial burden they may unjustly have to pay.
Black said that as long as protocol was followed with regards to the Department of Natural Resources, then no one should run afoul of the language that has essentially been on the books.
On the other hand, Rep. Don Rone, R-Portageville, believed the bill did not go far enough. He told how a deer that he raised on his property had been poached by a hunter from Tennessee as it was trying to flee from floodwaters. He says this law will put the necessary teeth into enforcement that current statute lacks.
Craig Alderman, executive director of the Quail and Upland Wildlife Federation, said that as someone who represented over 3,000 large landowners, the bill would help punish those hunted with no regard for conservation.
“As a landowner and a participant in wildlife restoration, we take serious offense when people abuse our land and abuse the wildlife we are trying to protect,” he said. “We abhor those who steal, injure and misuse our wildlife resources.”