During the annual meeting of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC), the Boone and Crockett Club announced its plans to lead a long-term Poach & Pay anti-poaching campaign. Through Poach & Pay, the Club will work with state wildlife agencies, legislators, and the judicial system to improve the detection and conviction of poachers and to ensure that the fines being assessed for this illegal killing are in line with the value our society places on wildlife. Poach & Pay, which received initial financial support through the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund, will include detailed research, a public outreach campaign to actively engage the sportsmen’s community against poaching, and the development of template legislation that could be carried in state houses to help state agencies fight wildlife crime.
“Poaching goes against all that we hold sacred as law-abiding sportsmen and women and undermines the entire foundation of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. However, the media often uses the terms hunting and poaching interchangeably, dragging all hunters down with the crimes of poachers,” noted Boone and Crockett Club president, Timothy C. Brady.
In 2016, the Boone and Crockett Club conducted research on the state restitution systems for illegal take of big game species through Phase I of the Poach & Pay project. This review found that 42 states currently have restitution programs – many include trophy restitution – however there is little apparent standardization of restitution costs, either within or among states.
The next phase of the Poach & Pay research will be conducted by Dr. Kristie Blevins and Dr. Jonathan Gassett with the Wildlife Management Institute. As a criminologist (Blevins) and a former director of a state wildlife agency (Gassett), they are uniquely positioned to lead the Poach & Pay research. Their investigation will assess the barriers to prosecuting wildlife crime, evaluate the detection rate and conservation impacts of wildlife crime, describe the motivational factors and potential deterrents that influence poachers, and provide solutions to improving prosecution and conviction rates, as well as a defensible framework for poaching penalties.
“The Poach & Pay research will be the largest, most extensive study on poaching that has ever been done in North America,” commented Gassett. “The first component of the research will focus on trying to get a handle on the ‘dark figure’ of wildlife crime – the amount of poaching that occurs that goes undetected. We reviewed statewide wildlife crime citation and court data in Kentucky from 2006 to 2017 to evaluate the real cost of illegal take violations and restitution and fines in the state. Previous studies on deer poaching have estimated that the detection rate is only around 2%. This suggests that 98% of wildlife crimes may go undetected, and the real cost of those undetected crimes to Kentucky may approach $43 million annually!”
The research conducted through Poach & Pay will be the first of its kind to use a modern statistical, scientific, and sociological methodology to describe the complex issue of poaching and other wildlife crimes in North America. More importantly, the Boone and Crockett Club will develop justifiable recommendations for reducing offenses by attacking the motivations for committing those crimes. With the information gathered through the research, the Club plans to work with our partners to reduce the barriers to the prosecution and conviction of poachers, as well as increase the penalties for poaching in order to deter the crime. In addition, the Poach & Pay outreach campaign will arm U.S. sportsmen and women with real poaching data that clearly separates poaching from hunting.
“We feel it is our duty as the organization that led the way on fair chase and hunting ethics for well more than a century to raise the stakes against wildlife crime,” concluded Brady. “The Boone and Crockett Club’s Poach & Pay project will show poachers for the thieves they are and hold them accountable for their crimes.”
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