Conservation Column: Anti-poaching Campaign

Lane County Audubon Society has joined a diverse group of stakeholders to fight poaching and illegal harm to wildlife in Oregon. This campaign is a collaboration among conservationists, recreationists, hunters, and landowners. We and other wildlife organizations (including Portland Audubon) believe this to be an opportunity to help protect non-game wildlife.

Stakeholder meetings include representatives from the legislature, Oregon State Police, Oregon Department of Justice, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Hunters Association, and Defenders of Wildlife among others. Recently passed legislation authorized the Oregon Department of Justice, State Police, and Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to work together to fight poaching. New legislation increased fines and restitutions for fish and wildlife crimes. Funding was made available to support the Stop Poaching campaign. 

Numerous illegal bird-killing reports over the years have included Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and other raptors, swans, crows, and Red-winged Blackbirds.

In addition, we have concerns that poaching of wildlife often includes trophy hunting, which targets the very individuals who are best suited for ensuring reproductive success and a healthy gene pool. As was noted at the first stakeholders meeting, poachers steal from all Oregonians and destroy natural resources that belong to all, depriving us of the opportunity to encounter wildlife in their own habitats.

Most people identify poaching as illegal hunting and indeed, ODFW reports cases of poaching of ducks, geese, etc. without legally obtained hunting licenses, during the off-season, and on closed refuge lands. Unfortunately, most people are unaware that it is likewise illegal to kill or harm non-game birds. Wildlife Care Centers treat birds and other wildlife that have been illegally shot, trapped and poisoned, often intentionally. Portland Audubon’s Care center lists Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks, Osprey, and Great Blue Herons among the bird species harmed. Birds are protected under several laws including the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which prohibits the “take” (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species. This vital protective law is under attack right now by the current administration. The Interior Department is fast-tracking efforts to strip away critical protections in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act: audubon.org/takeaction 

The goal of the Stop Poaching Campaign is to help protect and enhance Oregon’s fish and wildlife and their habitat for the enjoyment of present and future generations. The three prongs of the campaign are:

(1) Detection: Identifying and reporting crimes or suspicious activities to the TIP Line or Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division. 

(2) Enforcement: Troopers enforce laws by issuing warnings or citations and by making arrests. 

(3) Prosecution: Legal action through the Department of Justice including fines, restitution, and/or imprisonment. 

The Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division has hired additional troopers across the state to detect wildlife crimes. They are assisted by K-9 unit, Buck, a Golden Labrador Retriever, who can detect carrion, gunshot residue, and human scent (not to mention being a terrific ambassador for education and awareness programs). Members of the Oregon Department of Justice will work throughout the many Oregon counties to help prosecute poachers. A roving district attorney can increase prosecution rates, especially in court jurisdictions that don’t seem to prioritize it. Oregon State Parks and Recreation has agreed to post Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line signs at more than 200 state parks, campgrounds, and trailheads across Oregon. The TIP program offers people cash rewards for providing information that leads to a poaching citation. Other organizations have agreed to help raise awareness about the campaign, and we will provide more information, especially tips on how to recognize and report illegal activity, as it becomes available.

To report fish, wildlife and habitat crimes including habitat destruction, call the Turn In Poachers (TIP) Line at 800.452.7888 or email TIP@state.or.us or online at oregon.gov/osp/programs/fw/Pages/tip.aspx

For more information on the campaign, contact Yvonne Shaw: Yvonne.l.shaw@state.or.us.

And, as always, feel free to contact me for further information: dschlenoff@msn.com.