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North Idaho Poachers Taking Heavy Toll On Game

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LEWISTON, Idaho — Poachers are likely killing far more game animals than wolves are, state wildlife officials in North Idaho say.

Officials say last year in North Idaho they confirmed poaching of 30 elk, four moose, 13 mule deer and 57 whitetail deer.

Officials say a realistic detection rate is 5 percent, meaning poachers are likely killing about 600 elk, 80 moose, 260 mule deer and 1,000 whitetail annually.

“It’s real easy for people to blow a gasket about wolf predation,” said Idaho Fish and Game District Conservation Officer George Fischer. “They are very passionate about it, they are very irate about it and they are livid about it. Yet there is a two-legged wolf out there that is probably killing as many or more than wolves. Wolves are causing an impact, there is no doubt about it; I don’t want to downplay that at all, but two-legged wolves are probably killing more or stealing more game than wolves. That is the shock-and-awe message.”

Barry Cummings, also an Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer, said many people don’t report wildlife crimes because they don’t consider it a crime against them. The fine in Idaho for illegally killing an elk is $750, while the fine for illegally killing a moose is $10,000.

But he said if predators were killing as many game animals as poachers, people would take action.

“Holy buckets, we would be setting budgets aside,” Cummings said. “We would develop a group to figure out what it was and we would develop a plan to deal with it, but we won’t even talk about what impact this has on wildlife.”

Mark Hill, a senior conservation officer for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game at Lewiston, said it’s not completely clear why people who are aware of poaching don’t turn lawbreakers in.

“I don’t know if it’s because they almost look at themselves in the mirror and say, ‘If I turn in so and so, I’m going to be reflecting on some of the things I do and they will turn me in,”’ Hill said.

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