The scene is all too familiar for New Mexico’s game wardens: While investigating a report of possible poaching, the officer finds a carcass of what once was a trophy deer, elk or antelope – head removed, the meat left to rot.
It’s a sickening sight for an officer commissioned to protect the state’s wildlife. It’s also frustrating. The officer knows that even if the poacher is caught, he or she would face only misdemeanor penalties.
State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Valencia, hopes to change that by introducing legislation that would make trophy poaching resulting in wanton waste of game a felony punishable by substantial fines and jail time.
“We want to send poachers a message that stealing the state’s wildlife, whether for the thrill or for profit, is a serious crime with serious consequences,” Baldonado said. “We want to stop the waste.” A fourth-degree felony could include penalties of 18 months in jail and a fine up to $5,000.
Baldonado prefiled House Bill 55 on Friday, Jan. 11.
The bill also includes measures to:
— Better define many wildlife-law violations as misdemeanors so the courts don’t confuse them with petty misdemeanors. This would allow the Department of Game and Fish more time to investigate and prosecute cases because of the two-year statute of limitations for misdemeanors. Petty misdemeanors carry a one-year statute of limitations.
— Increase the number of minor wildlife-law violations in which defendants can elect to pay fines through the mail instead of having to appear in court. These violations include offenses such as hunting, trapping or fishing without a proper stamp or license validation.
For more information about the bill, contact Department of Game and Fish Colonel of Field Operations Robert Griego at (505) 476-8066.