Washington hunters who get caught trespassing may no longer be allowed to keep the game they kill.
Before, those chasing deer, elk or other critters on private property only faced a fine of a couple hundred bucks or so, worth the cost for some when the animals taken were of trophy caliber.
But a new law passed in Olympia at state game wardens’ request last session stiffens the penalties — not only can the game be seized upon conviction, but hunting privileges can be revoked for up to two years.
Rich Landers wrote about the new rule in his column in today’s Spokane Spokesman Review:
“This is a very useful new tool in our toolbox for stopping trespassers,” said Fish and Wildlife police officer Paul Mosman in Spokane.
“It had become well known in some circles that the fine for trespassing was $250,” he said.
“The cost of getting onto some good private hunting lands is much higher than that, so some hunters were figuring, what the heck. They’d trespass to get a trophy animal. If they got caught, they’d pay the $250 as a cost of doing business and call it good.”
The new law requires officers to seize the animal taken by a hunter unlawfully entering private property to kill or retrieve wildlife.
“That incentive is gone,” Mosman said.
In a mid-October Facebook post that shed light on part of SB 6135, passed unanimously in both chambers of the legislature and which took affect June 7, WDFW’s Enforcement Division pointed to the case of two men who allegedly repeatedly hiked nine miles into private property in eastern Pierce County to hunt elk and who were “among the first” to be charged under the new law:
They had cheated successfully before, but this time they weren’t so lucky. And perhaps their fate can help others decide whether the risk is still worth the reward….
The two subjects took one 5×5 and one 5×7 bull after setting up camp nine miles into private property (closed to hunting) during the archery elk season. It was no accident that Officers Leonetti, Summit, Langbehn, Prater, and Hillman were there when the two men tried to sneak portions of the first bull out at 1:15am. Nine days later, the Officers were back when the subjects took portions of the second bull out at 2:00am.
The two were arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on multiple counts of trespassing while hunting, criminal trespassing and wastage. A vehicle and two motorcycles were seized, along with all of their hunting gear and camping equipment. A search warrant was then served at the residence of one of the subjects. The antlers and portions of the first elk were recovered, along with two unlawfully possessed raptors that were found in the freezer.
For those who just don’t get it, here is what you potentially face if you ignore the new ‘Hunt While Trespass’ law: A penalty of up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, upon conviction, the Department will revoke your hunting licenses and suspend your hunting privileges for two years. Any animal harvested or retrieved in violation of the section will be forfeited to WDFW.
Landers points out there is an exception in some cases.
… The new law offers trespassers an avenue for defending themselves against a citation in the case of retrieving game.
An officer can give them leniency if they can prove they made “all reasonable attempts to contact” the landowner for permission to collect the animal so they could avoid breaking the state law that forbids wasting fish or wildlife.