The only way to drastically reduce the breaking of fish and game laws is for hunters, fishermen and concerned citizens to report the lawbreakers.
Will that ever happen? Unfortunately, it’s not likely. Conscientious anglers and hunters who would like to see lawbreakers pay for their transgressions know that a high percentage of Americans still regard informers as “snitches,” “squealers,” “rats” and other forms of vermin.
Fish and wildlife departments don’t have nearly enough officers to enforce the laws. Washington, for example, has about 160 officers, including captains, sergeants and a few administrative personnel. The Idaho Fish and Game Department has about 90 conservation officers.
Wildlife agencies constantly urge license-holders and others to report violations. But their hotlines are rarely busy. Too many citizens ignore violations. They often complain, but they won’t do anything about it, even when they know they can get a reward for turning in a poacher.
Wildlife agencies and sportsmen’s organizations pay big money for information on poaching. The Washington department, for instance, pays $50 to $500 and bonus preference points for deer and elk special permits to people who report poachers.
Some sportsmen’s clubs offer rewards up to $500 for information on poaching. Among the leaders are the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, which pays $500 for information “leading to successful resolution” of the poaching of moose, grizzly bears, bighorn sheep and caribou.
Traditional Bowhunters of Washington pays $100 for information leading to the arrest of a person who violates a game law while hunting with bow and arrows. And the National Audubon Society pays rewards for information on the killing of a grizzly bear.
Like the Washington department, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has too few officers to patrol the state adequately. The department doesn’t offer rewards to those who inform on poachers. However, the Citizens Against Poaching pays a lot of money to people who provide information that leads to conviction of poachers.
CAP pays $500 for information on the poaching of moose, bighorn sheep, goats, grizzly bears and caribou; $250 to informers in deer, antelope, bear and elk poaching cases, and $100 for information on small game, birds, fish and furbearer poachings.
Because the illegal killing of moose increased to 28 in North Idaho in 1995, the department called on CAP to increase the reward for information on poachers to $1,000 and to provide money to make moose decoys to use in areas where poaching was particularly bad. Some of the kills were the result of negligence or hunter misidentification. Two people turned themselves into authorities after illegally killing moose.
The unlawful kills dropped to 17 last year. The department issued six citations as the result of efforts by its officers and information provided by citizens.
Sportsmen and others are more likely to inform on poachers of big-game animals than on those who shoot from vehicles, snag fish, exceed bag limits and other lesser offenses.
For example, nearly everyone who fished during the winter months couldn’t help witnessing violations.
A well-known angler who fished several times a week at Idaho’s Spirit Lake didn’t hide the fact that he exceeded the limit of 25 kokanee a day. While I was at the lake one day, a couple of Idaho fishermen laughed when they told other anglers that the poacher took home more than 100 every time the fishing was hot. No one reported him to fish and game officials.
A Spokane angler reported seeing two men still-fishing for rainbows with five rods at Sprague Lake one recent afternoon. It’s illegal for an angler to fish with more than one rod. My informant didn’t report the violation.
Officers know that some of the people who show up when big lake whitefish are attracted to the inlet of Soda Lake in early March every year will try to snag the fish. They cast big, weighted triple hooks into the whitefish schools and then yank on their rods.
The wildlife agents assume no one will report the snaggers. They spend a lot of time watching the snaggers through binoculars and spotting scopes. And they issue citations to numerous people.
It’s illegal to kill more than two trout over 14 inches at Fourth of July and Hog Canyon lakes during the winter fishing season. However, a disconcertingly high percentage of anglers ignored the regulation the last three months.
Washington officials are hoping that rewards totaling $1,000 will result in the arrest of the person who killed a caribou about 15 miles northeast of Northport last December. The big money may tempt a person or people who have knowledge of the poaching to inform on the poacher.
Both Washington and Idaho have toll-free poaching hotlines. If you have contempt for poachers and see a fish or game violation, report it to authorities. Washington’s hotline is 1-800-477-6224; Idaho’s, 1-800-632-5999.
, DataTimes MEMO: You can contact Fenton Roskelley by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 3814.
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