Governor Dayton targets felony-level punishments for poachers

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With poachers making headlines recently, Gov. Mark Dayton is calling for reform targeting harsher penalties for those who break state hunting and fishing laws.

“The recently reported instances of wanton and wasteful poaching in Minnesota should offend the sensibilities of all ethical and law-abiding hunters and anglers,” Dayton said in a press release “They are shameful criminal acts, and they should be treated as serious offenses by Minnesota laws. I ask our state's sportsmen and sportswomen to join me in urging the legislature to increase the penalties for these disgusting abuses.”

Dayton wants to up weight of criminal penalties.

Dayton's reform proposal looks to establish a new felony-level penalty for poaching, which currently is a gross misdemeanor for violators, and up to a $2,000 fine. He also wants to take away game and fish licenses for up to 10 years, double the current revocation period.

The thresholds for hunters and fishers are:

  • Four or more deer
  • Two or more trophy deer
  • Five or more bears or turkeys
  • Forty or more ducks, geese, pheasant, grouse or salmon
  • Sixty-seven or more walleye or Northern pike

Poaching incidents

Earlier this week, the DNR announced two elk were found illegally shot. Minnesota's population is at its lowest herd ever with only 10 elk after the incident.

A five-year investigation led the DNR to arrest four men in October in Dawson, Minnesota, who were in possession of 28 antlers and 37 guns. Charges were recently filed against the group.

In a 2013 case, a three-year investigation led to 21 facing charges in the state's largest walleye poaching case. The fish were being caught and sold on the black market. A judge later dismissed charges for four involved.

Minnesotans can help by calling the "Turn in Poachers" line at 1-800-652-9093 or dial #TIP on cell phones. Rewards of up to $1,000 are available for credible tips.

"To ethical sportsmen it's just sickening," Anthony Hauck, a spokesman for Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever tells the Associated Press. "It's really sickening and we want to see it come to a stop. If some tougher penalties are what it takes, then we're definitely for that."

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