Bill, sponsored by Baldonado, to increase poaching penalties

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Trophy poaching and wanton waste of game might result in a fourth degree felony for violators if House Bill 55 is passed.

The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (Los Lunas-8), was approved by the House on a 67-0 vote, and is being considered by the Senate Conservation and Judiciary Committees.

"This type of waste is both senseless and illegal, and increasing penalties can help discourage future occurrences," Baldonado said in a news release. "Unfortunately, we have seen a significant number of cases involving poaching in New Mexico, and it is time to take action against this type of activity."

New Mexico Game and Fish officers investigated more than 200 cases where big game has been killed "unlawfully and left to waste," according to a news release.

"Usually, the males are the targeted animals, because of the antlers, heads and hide. People pay big money to get them," said Maj. Donald Jaramillo with game and fish's northern operations.

The bill proposes an amendment to statute 17-2-8: Unlawful Taking of Big Game and Waste of Game to include stricter penalties for major violations, clarifying misdemeanor status to have a two year statute of limitations and adding a penalty assessment for minor violations of hunting and fishing infractions.

Waste of an animal is defined as "removing from the animal only the head, antlers or horns or leaving any of the four quarters, back straps or tenderloins of the carcass to waste."

House Bill 55 increases the penalty of killing bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, elk, deer, barbary sheep and pronghorn antelope in reference to unnecessary and wanton waste of the game outside of the legal season or without a valid license to a fourth-degree felony. Sentencing for this felony could include 18 months in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

This bill also places a maximum penalty for minor game and fish violations and allows those who are cited the option to pay a penalty assessment for new categorized violations without having to go to court.

The penalty assessment misdemeanors for fishing, hunting or trapping without the proper stamp, such as habitat stamp or two-pole fishing stamp, or validations would increase to $50. The penalty assessment for minor manner-and-method rule infractions, established by the State Game Commission, would increase to $125.

These fines don't include the cost of the stamp and would require violators to show a proof of payment of the penalty assessment.

The NMDGF estimates to have 100 to 200 violators for those without the proper stamp and 500 to 700 violators for those with manner-and-method infractions, according to the fiscal impact report from the New Mexico Legislature.

Funds generated from these fines would aid the department in its "continued management of New Mexico's wildlife resource," state the release.

Included in the bill is the deletion of a provision stating that these sections can not be interpreted to "prevent, constrain or penalize a Native American for engaging in activities for religious purposes."


-- Email the author at aortiz@news-bulletin.com.