As many big game hunting seasons progress into the fall, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers have a new tool to deter poaching and punish violators for serious poaching crimes.
Legislation sponsored by the wildlife conservation community approved enhancements of penalties for the illegal take of trophy-class animals. Under Fish and Game Code (FGC) section 12013.3 penalties are significantly enhanced for any person convicted of poaching deer, elk, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and wild turkey with certain characteristics that would define them as trophy game animal.
In addition to the legislation that enhanced poaching penalties, the California Fish and Game Commission developed regulations to define those trophy characteristics. Commissioners worked with the CDFW and several outdoors, conservation and hunting organizations to define the characteristics in California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 14, section 748.6. The legislation and regulation package went into full effect on July 1, 2017.
In summary, “…the punishment for a person who knowingly violated and has been convicted of [take out of season, spotlighting, baiting, waste of meat, or take without a tag]… where the violation involved a trophy… deer, elk, antelope, or bighorn sheep shall be a fine of not less than five thousand dollars ($5,000) nor more than forty thousand dollars ($40,000), and where the violation involved a wild turkey, a fine of not less than two thousand dollars ($2,000) nor more than five thousand dollars ($5,000), or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than one year, or both that fine and imprisonment.”
“The first case adjudicated after the trophy law took effect exemplifies the potential benefits this enhancement law could have on wildlife protection,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division.
On July 5, 2017, Garrett Thomas Peacock, 22, of Yuba City, was sentenced to two years’ probation with a restriction from hunting during that time and ordered to pay $5,150 in fines and penalties. The case began months prior when wildlife officers, acting upon an anonymous CalTIP (Californians Turn in Poacher and Polluters), contacted Peacock during a follow-up investigation. The investigation revealed that Peacock unlawfully killed a trophy class “buck” deer without permission in an orchard on private property in Maxwell in Colusa County. Peacock did not possess the required deer tag at the time of the killing. Officers recovered photographic evidence, deer antlers, numerous packages of meat and a deer tag purchased after the fact from Peacock.
“Unlawfully targeting animals for their trophy qualities is an egregious violation,” said Chief Bess. “Under the enhanced penalties of this law, the punishment will more closely match the severity of these types of poaching crimes.”
Anyone with information about unlawful fishing, hunting or pollution is encouraged to contact CalTIP, CDFW’s confidential secret witness program that encourages the public to provide wildlife officers with factual information leading to the arrest of poachers and polluters. The CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, is printed on the back of every hunting and fishing license. Tips can also be relayed by text to 847411 (tip411). Text messages allow for a two-way conversation with wildlife officers, while preserving the anonymity of the tipster. Texts should begin with the word “CALTIP,” followed by a space and the message. There is also an app for smartphones that works similarly. For more information on the program and the CalTIP app, please visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip.
Captain Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-6692