I was reading a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources News Release this week.
On July 24, a Berkeley County resident had his day in Magistrate Court for multiple game violations.
This is the result of a two-month undercover investigative operation between the WVDNR police and the Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Conservation Police. Between September 2013 and November 2013, this investigation revealed a small group of poachers were operating an illegal deer processing enterprise at a private resident in Berkeley County.
The group's leader was charged with one count of the illegal sale of wildlife (deer bologna), two counts of conspiracy to violate Chapter 20 and four counts of illegal possession of wildlife/parts thereof, which consisted of one 12-point buck, one 7-point buck and two buck heads and antlers. The total fines and court costs assess to $1,261.75.
The leader's wife plead no contest to illegal sale of Wildlife (deer bologna) and conspiracy to violate Chapter 20 in the Berkeley County Magistrate Court on Jan. 30. Her total fines and court costs were $360.50.
Three other Berkeley County residents were charged with various game violations as a result of this investigation. A 38-year-old man from Glengary was charged with one count of taking a deer during the closed season, illegal possession of wildlife (one count), and improper checking of a deer (one count). This person plead guilty to all charges in the county magistrate court on Dec. 21. His total fines and court costs were $540. He was also ordered to pay a $2,000 replacement cost on a deer.
A 39-year-old man from Gerrardstown was charged with illegal possession of a deer (one count), conspiring in a game law violation of Chapter 20 (one count), driving on a suspended license, and no proof of insurance. This individual plead guilty on Dec. 2 to all charges. His total fines and court costs were $1,061.
A 19-year-old man from Martinsburg was charged with illegal transportation of wildlife out of state (10 counts), illegal possession of deer (10 counts) and conspiring in a game law violation of Chapter 20. This individual pleaded guilty in magistrate court on March 24. His total fine and court costs were $620.20. The illegal possession of deer charges were dismissed.
A Hedgesville man still has multiple game charges against him as well as other crimes. Right now, all his charges are still pending in the Berkeley County and Virginia court systems.
The result of these wildlife violations is going to cost five individuals a total of $5,843.75. This small group of hunting outlaws is learning the hard way that getting apprehended for poaching game in West Virginia is costly.
Sportsmen and women need to realize that our DNR police are trained professionals. They are required to take a course in law enforcement at the state police academy at Institute. While it may not be as long and physically intensive as for becoming a state trooper, it is still quite comprehensive. The days of conservation officers being called the "Opossum Cops" are over. They also enforce motorboat laws, highway and stream litter laws, and assist city, county, state and federal law enforcement officers whenever necessary.
The days of getting cited for hunting out of season or for a small game violation and ending up having to pay a measly $5 to $10 fine before a Justice of the Peace like it was in the 1950s, 60s and 70s are a thing of the past.
I remember back in the early 1970s when a retired, but well-formed, employee of the DNR told me that tons of illegal venison gets transported out of West Virginia each year and has been traced as far away as Chicago. When I first came to Elkins in 1972, a retired Elkins city policeman told me that a local person used to haul illegal venison to Washington, D.C., in a hearse and sell it at a premium price. Here are the leading reasons why we now have large fines for poachers who willfully violate the laws of fish and game in our state.