The Humane Society of the United States praised Massachusetts Sen. Michael Moore, D-Millbury, and Rep. Matthew Beaton, R-Shrewsbury, for introducing bipartisan legislation that would increase penalties for wildlife poaching and bring Massachusetts into a nationwide law enforcement network known as the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. The HSUS encourages Massachusetts legislators to swiftly pass this important bill.
“The key to combatting poaching is deterring these crimes before they happen, and adequate penalties make poachers think twice before breaking the law,” said Alexis Fox, Massachusetts state director for The HSUS. “Massachusetts’ poaching prevention laws are lagging behind the rest of the country and The Humane Society of the United States is thrilled to be part of the coalition that will address this abhorrent activity.”
The bill would increase penalties for illegal activities such as shooting animals in a wildlife sanctuary, hunting under the influence of alcohol, spotlighting wildlife at night and shooting wildlife from a motor vehicle. It also authorizes Massachusetts’ membership in the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which establishes reciprocity with other states for the purposes of hunting, trapping and fishing license suspensions. Massachusetts is one of only seven states that is not a member of the accord. Membership in the compact would prevent wildlife violators who have lost their licenses in member states from crossing state lines into Massachusetts to circumvent their punishment.
“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 Sen. 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. I am proud to sponsor legislation that will give environmental police officers new tools to prevent the crime of poaching and will allow everyone to continue to enjoy the beauty and natural resources of the Commonwealth.”
“As an avid sportsman and conservationist, I am excited about this opportunity to further our commitment to environmental stewardship in the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Beaton. “I feel it is incumbent upon the law abiding sportsmen of the Commonwealth to be leaders in promoting ethical and responsible hunting practices. I look forward to working with Senator Moore and our colleagues to further safeguard the sporting tradition here in Massachusetts.”
- State records show that on average, several hundred people are arrested, charged or warned for hunting violations in the Commonwealth each year.
- Some of Massachusetts’ poaching penalties are among the weakest in the country and some have remained unchanged since the 1930s.
- Recent alleged poaching crimes in Massachusetts include a turkey killed illegally by a man shooting from the road in Athol in May 2012, a Southhampton man charged with illegal bear baiting in September 2012 and a deer killed illegally in a wildlife sanctuary in Petersham in November 2012.
- Forty-one states are members of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which was started in the early 1990s. Since then, membership has spread across the country with more states joining each year.
- When a poacher has his or her hunting, fishing and/or trapping privileges suspended in a state that is a member of the compact, the suspension may be recognized by all other compact member states. The violation is treated as if it happened in the violator’s home state for purposes of license suspension. Suspension information is shared between states via an electronic database.
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