In our neighboring state, a 26 year old Oregon hunter named Brennon D. Witty has plead guilty to illegally shooting a radio-collared gray wolf in Grant county. He was out hunting for coyotes on private property when he shot and killed the radio collared wolf named OR-22. While gray wolves are currently delisted under the state of Oregon’s Endangered Species Act (ESA), gray wolves still remain protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Additionally, the shooting happened one month before the wolves were delisted under the state ESA. As a result, Mr. Witty has pled guilty to the “taking” of a threatened or endangered species. Because of a plea deal, a companion charge of hunting with a centerfire rifle with no big game tag was dismissed.
Witty was fined $1,000 and ordered to pay $1,000 of restitution to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. The rifle he used to illegally kill the endangered wolf was confiscated by the state. He faces zero jail time.
It is a Federal and State Criminal Offense to Kill Endangered Species
Most people do not know it, but killing an endangered species (aka poaching) is a criminal act. Under Section 9 of the federal Endangered Species act, a “take” of a protected species is a federal crime, punishable by $25,000 per violation. The federal statute also provides criminal penalties up to $50,000 and one year imprisonment.
Many states also have state endangered species acts that are modeled after the federal Act. The California Endangered Species Act is actually the most comprehensive of all the states. Killing an endangered species listed under the CA Endangered Species Act is punishable by a civil penalty up to $10,000 per violation. Upon an “actionable violation, the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife must consult as to the appropriate civil or criminal penalty. This means the wildlife agency must work with the District Attorney or the state Attorney General’s office.
The McKittrick Policy
It is important to note that poaching charges will only apply if you intended to kill an endangered species. The Department of Justice (DOJ) formed the “McKittrick Policy” in 1995 after a hunter killed a protected wolf in Montana. The policy states that a defendant can only be prosecuted for violations of the when it can prove that the killer specifically intended to kill an endangered species (mens rea requirement). As a result, the DOJ has rarely prosecuted anyone for an intentional poaching, and many states have followed suit.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
The Law Offices of David M. Boertje works on all federal and misdemeanor criminal charges ranging from assault, white collar crimes, to charges of illegal poaching. At our law offices, we know that a mistake can quickly ruin someone’s life. If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, contact attorney David Boertje today. Consultations are free and confidential.