The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has recently increased the reward for information about poachers. You can now receive up to $500 for reporting these illegal hunters.
But you may be wondering: What counts as poaching, and how do I turn a poacher in? You could even be participating in activities that qualify as poaching, without realizing it. Remember, a poaching charge is a felony offense! Here’s a look at what counts as poaching and how you can turn in poachers:
What Is Poaching?
Poachers are hunters who shoot or catch wildlife that is illegal to kill. The hunting and fishing of many species is restricted or outlawed in order to preserve the balance within local ecosystems and prevent endangered species from becoming extinct.
The poaching umbrella also covers hunters who have no hunting license or are using a fake or invalid license. Even if you didn’t catch the fish or game yourself – for example, if you are merely skinning someone else’s catch with your hunting knife – you still need a license to do so legally. Using a false residence status for license discounts is also punishable as a poaching offense. Off-road vehicles and vehicles in restricted no-vehicle zones are also considered a kind of poaching violation.
Illegal hunting. Per the ODFW, hunters will be charged with poaching “for the illegal possession, killing, taking, and/or waste of deer, elk, antelope, bear, cougar, big horn sheep, mountain goat, moose, and/or game birds.” Even if you were forced to kill a wild bear with your hunting knife to save your own life, you would still have some serious explaining to do if you were on a hunting trip at the time. Most off-limits wildlife is either endangered or crucial to the ecosystem; killing these species disrupts the local habitat.
Illegal fishing. Make sure to review the ODFW website for the latest news on what fish are restricted. For example, steelhead and sturgeon have recently been considered off limits or limited. Killing a large number of fish is often considered a poaching violation, even if the species isn’t endangered. Make sure to review your local fishing laws – they can vary by county.
Exercising Caution Around Poachers
Poachers who are aware they are engaging in illegal activity can be dangerous – particularly because they are more than likely armed with sporting knives and/or guns. Do not approach a group of poachers if you get a bad vibe from them, and definitely avoid harassing or ridiculing them. In short, be nice. It’s better to get a thorough observation and go about your business than to start trouble.
Be sure to write down your encounter in full detail when you return, or at the earliest opportunity. Pay attention to important details, including:
- Time of day.
- Vehicles involved (if any) with license plate, model, etc.
- Weapons and/or hunting methods used.
- Type and number of game or fish killed/caught.
If you want to move on quickly, or just need to avoid confrontation, use your hunting knife to make a small mark or nick on a nearby stump or rock; this can help you identify the location later and is one more good reason to carry some sporting knives in your belt! Last but not least, report any poaching incidents to the ODFW by calling 1-800-452-7888. While you can remain anonymous, it’s always better to leave a name or phone number in case further details are needed.
Unless you are killing protected wildlife with a hunting knife to survive, or lost in the wild with no other recourse for food, then you are breaking the law – no exceptions. Be sure to visit the ODFW poaching report page for additional information.