AZ Game and Fish: 70 percent increase in illegal hunting, poaching

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ARIZONA – There is new information on a big increase in poaching in Arizona. Arizona's Department of Game and Fish says they've seen a 70 percent increase in violations, including poaching.

On the one hand that could be a sign of more people hunting illegally to feed their families but on the other it could reflect an increase in reporting poaching as more people go after cash rewards offered for information.

Keith Paul, a veteran hunter, tells 3TV, “I've hunted javelina and mule digger.” Paul says he has been hunting for more than four decades. He is hesitant to give up his favorite hunting spots, but the game and fish volunteer is not shy about denouncing those who do it illegally.

He says, “We should all be incensed and angry about it because it's just stealing from everyone that lives in the state. It’s disturbing. It’s kind of something I've anticipated with the downturn of the economy.”

In fact, the economy may be the factor driving a 70 percent spike in reports of poaching, according to Ken Dinquel, manager of Operation Game Thief at the Arizona Game and Fish Department. He says, “We may have poaching from people trying to feed themselves.” That is known as subsistence hunting. Dinquel says some poaching is what is known as thrill-killing.

Others are involved in illegal commercialization by selling off parts of the animals and not just the meat. They sell things like bear gallbladders and velvet antlers.

Bear gallbladders are supposed to be an aphrodisiac while the velvet-like covering of antlers can be used as a dietary supplement.

Dinquels’ team investigates the reports of poaching. Some are anonymous while others come from fellow hunters wanting to cash in on others illegal activity.

Game and Fish says they do offer rewards for information that leads to an arrest. Paul says whatever their reasons, poachers’ actions amount to one thing. He explains, “It basically amounts to theft.”

Penalties for poaching and other illegal hunting can range from revoking hunting licenses to hefty fines. 

For further information, go to the Arizona Game and Fish Department.