‘Poach & Pay’ Program to Help Crack Down on Illegal Trophy Hunting

Laws already exists to punish hunters for illegal harvesting of wildlife, such as whitetail and elk, but should the fines be commensurate with the trophy size of animals poached?

By: Frank Miniter

Thad Bingham poached this trophy elk in far western Colorado in 2014. Game officials recognized landmarks in the background of the photo and investigated. They were able to prove Bingham, and three others, had poached the bull. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Thad Bingham poached this trophy elk in far western Colorado in 2014. Game officials recognized landmarks in the background of the photo and investigated. They were able to prove Bingham, and three others, had poached the bull. (Photo courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

 

You look at the photo of him grinning pensively, as if just a touch of worry is in the corners of his smirk as he sits between great, stupendous even, 6×6 elk antlers on a Colorado hillside.

Sure, then 44-year-old Thad Bingham must have known better; he is employed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, after all. But the bull was so big, so big he had to have it. He trespassed with three others on private land to poach the bull in an area not open to hunting.

Bingham is a resident of the tiny town of Fruita, a community in Colorado’s Grand Valley. The town is on I-70 in the far western part of the state. It has a population of about 12,000 residents.

So yeah, word got around fast that Bingham had bagged a tremendous bull. He was thumping his chest; he’d gotten the big one this time. He even posted the photo of himself with that spurious grin between the bull’s antlers online. He thought he’d get away with it.

Wildlife officers, however, heard about the photo. They took a look and recognized landmarks in the background. This bull, they could plainly see had been killed in an area that’s closed to hunting.

Bingham’s trophy photo would soon make the Denver Post. The story wouldn’t be flattering.

To make trophy poachers pay fines commensurate with their crimes, Colorado passed the “Samson Law.” Ever since, a poached 6×6 bull elk comes with a $10,000 fine. A bighorn sheep with a horn length of at least one-half curl will cost a poacher $25,000. Other trophy-sized big-game animals have similar fines associated with them.

To protect wildlife resources, other states wanted “Samson Laws” of their own. A number of states have since begun using the Boone and Crockett Club’s (B&C) scoring system scoring system and other means to calculate values of poached game—the bigger the antlers, the bigger the fines.

B&C is now stepping in to help through the establishment of a new program called “Poach & Pay.” The program is intended to gather information from across state agencies to determine what restitution programs are already in place, and what processes and authorities are required to determine those regulations and values.

Read the full story on Petersen’s Hunting.

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