The press releases from the Oregon State Police have been so frequent recently and so similar in content — at least half a dozen over the past month or so — that when we read the phrase “OSP seeks public assistance” we immediately wonder how many animals were poached, and of what species, and where.
Poaching is hardly a rare crime, unfortunately.
But the proliferation of poaching cases this fall, including a few in or near Baker County, has been particularly troubling because poachers, in effect, steal from all of us. Game animals such as deer, elk and bighorn sheep are public resources, managed by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for the public’s benefit.
Hunters might be the most obvious victims of poachers but they’re not the only ones. People who merely like to watch these animals, or to photograph them, also suffer when people illegally kill them.
We don’t see any easy and effective solution to poaching.
Judges often punish convicted poachers by suspending their hunting privileges, sometimes for several years, and occasionally by ordering that their forfeit the gun they used in the crime.
It’s less common for poachers to be sentenced to jail, but it does happen. Earlier this year a Gilliam County judge sentenced Cody Plaggman to 40 days in jail for poaching a bighorn sheep near Interstate 84.
We also applaud the state Legislature for increasing, fourfold for some species, the fines for poaching.
Ultimately, though, we think perhaps the best deterrence against poachers is convincing them that they’re far more likely than not to be caught.
To this end, the OSP’s frequent public pleas for information are valuable. So is the Oregon Hunters Association’s toll-free line people can call (anonymously if they wish) if they have information about poaching (the number is 1-800-452-7888).
Poachers deserve nothing less than to have the spotlight — one of their favorite cowardly tactics — shone brightly on them.
From the Baker City Herald editorial board. The board consists of editor Jayson Jacoby and reporter Chris Collins.