Conservation package could triple many fines for elk, moose, and bear

A set of three bills in the state Senate could see those convicted of poaching Michigan’s large game species out of season take a beating on their pocketbooks, with fines jumping to over $5,000.

The legislation, introduced in March, passed out of committee in April and has been sent to the floor. Combined the bills would revamp the current fines for elk, bear and moose as well as expand the length of time that those convicted of poaching such game would be subject to a suspension of hunting privileges. Sens. Dale Zorn and Phil Pavlov, both Republican lawmakers, sponsor the bills.

“With these bills, we’re building on the success of the deer poaching bills,” Pavlov told the Huron Daily Tribune. “What was interesting, is the sportsman’s groups around the state were calling for additional protection as well for these other species. So it’s being driven by the hunters and the people that truly appreciate Michigan’s wildlife.”

The proposals, Senate Bills 244, 245, and 246, when taken as a whole, increase the restitution owed by a poacher to the state, increase the number of years a poacher has to go before being able to obtain a license again and change state sentencing guidelines for those who illegally take elk, moose, and bear.

Under the current law, those who take any of those three species out of season or without the proper licenses face a $1,500 fine. The language of SB 244 changes that to $3,500 for each bear and $5,000 for each moose or elk. Further, Elk would be assessed an additional fine of $250 per point for those with 8-10 scorable points, going up to $500 for each additional point after that. For example, a 6×6 bull elk under the new scheme would go from a $1,500 fine to a $6,750 bill.

Besides large game, waterfowl, turkey and some birds of prey such as owls and eagles, many of which currently do not carry a per-animal fine, would be assessed at anywhere from $500-$2000.

Under Senate Bill 245, those who are convicted of poaching such animals will spend much more time at the house when the season is going, as they will be unable to legally hunt for an extended period. Currently, those illegally taking elk, moose, or bear, even on their second offense, receive a 3-year suspension of hunting privileges. The new bill proposes to raise this to 5 years for bear on the first offense, and 10 years for subsequent. Take an elk or moose and catch a 15-year suspension. Do it again and you’ve lost your Michigan hunting and fishing eligibility for life.

The bills are similar to a new law enacted last session that saw fines move way up for deer poaching.

Under that law, which on top of the flat fine, for an antlered white-tailed deer with at least 8 but not more than 10 points, an additional $500.00 for each point is assessed. However, wait, it gets better. For an antlered white-tailed deer with 11 or more points, $750.00 for each point is tacked on. With that, a 38-year old Saint Clair man picked up a $15,000 fine this January over a 18-point taken illegally.

State conservation groups are supporting the measures.

While poaching is not widespread, it is a problem, they contend.

“But some people obviously are doing that,” Drew Youngedyke with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs told Michigan Public Radio, “and we want to make sure that we’re preventing them from doing that with these higher penalties.”

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