2014-02-20 / Outdoors

New laws increase fines for poaching, trespass

LANSING – New state laws designed to deter poaching of antlered bucks, especially those with trophy-sized racks, and to reduce recreational trespass are now in effect in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources announced Monday.

The new laws make several changes to the fines and restitution payments for poaching deer, including a progressive penalty system:

• For any deer with or without antlers, the base restitution will be $1,000;

• For any antlered deer, there will be an additional restitution of $1,000 plus;

• For antlered deer with eight to 10 points, an additional $500 will be assessed for each point; and

• For antlered deer with 11 or more points, an additional $750 will be assessed for each point.

A “point” is defined in the bill as being at least one inch long as measured from its tip to the nearest edge of the antler beam.

As an example, illegally killing a 10-point buck in Michigan will now result in a $7,000 restitution plus fines and court costs.

Poachers also now face stronger penalties related to hunting privileges. Under previous law, poachers would lose their hunting privileges in Michigan for remainder of the year of the conviction plus three years. Under the new law, poachers who kill an antlered buck will now lose their hunting privileges for an additional two years on their first offense (potentially six years in total) and an additional seven years on second and subsequent offenses (potentially 11 years in total).

In addition, the new laws address recreational trespass by increasing the civil damage award that a landowner may recover. Previously under the law, the maximum amount a landowner could recover from someone who trespasses on his or her land to hunt or engage in other recreational activity was $250 or actual property damages. Under the new law, the civil action increases to $750 or actual property damages. Additionally, if someone kills any protected animal, game or fish while trespassing, the new law creates a new misdemeanor with higher fines than allowed for a first violation.

“Poachers who are targeting trophy deer will commit multiple violations to do so, including trespass, unlawful shining, hunting at night and not wearing hunter orange,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “These new laws give us more tools to go after these individuals, and are designed to reduce poaching of antlered deer in particular.”

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