CHEYENNE, Wyo. — A Wyoming legislative committee is preparing to discuss two proposed bills that would toughen up the state’s ability to prosecute poaching and the penalties for those convicted.
The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee is scheduled to meet in Thermopolis on Tuesday to consider bills for next year’s legislative session.
One bill headed before the committee next week would make it a state crime to knowingly sell, barter, trade or buy illegally taken wildlife. The other bill would base the amount of restitution paid by poachers on the economic value of illegally taken wildlife.
People who play a role in poaching can be prosecuted under federal law. But proponents of making it a state crime to knowingly traffic in illegally taken wildlife say it would help Wyoming authorities crack down.
The proposal would make being involved in poaching a high misdemeanor if the transaction were valued at $1,000 or less. The crime would rise to a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine, if the transaction were valued at $1,000 or more.
“If we can’t catch the poacher himself and the animal was taken illegally, I don’t know why people down the line should be benefiting from a crime,” said committee co-chairman Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan.
He added that it would make wildlife laws consistent with other criminal statutes.
“If someone steals something like jewelry and a person is caught fencing the stolen jewelry, they are breaking a criminal law,” Burns said. “This would be just doing the same with wildlife.”
Under the other proposed bill headed before the committee, restitution for poaching crimes would take into account the economic value of the animal or animals illegally taken.
The economic value would factor in things such as the cost for the state to manage a species and the cost of a license to hunt the species.
Rep. Kathy Davison, R- Kemmerer, who also co-chairs the committee, said Wyoming’s existing poaching laws work well, and she needs to hear more from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department before deciding whether to support the bills.
“According to Game and Fish, there are some clauses we can consider that would make it work a bit better,” Davison said. “But we will have to hear more about that during the meeting.”