Problematic Poaching

By: Erin Tate
By: Erin Tate

On the Skyline Drive, in the Shenandoah National Park, District Ranger Clay Jordan is on foot patrol. He's scoping out the drive for poachers hunting illegally in the park.

"It's real difficult to quantify how much poaching is taking place because we only know what we catch. We think we're just dealing with the tip of the iceberg," said Jordan.

Six to 12 poachers are caught each year. Rangers steadily patrol the park and close the Skyline Drive at night during hunting season to cut down on easy kills.

They also use robotic deer to trap poachers in the act. And they rely heavily on help from hunters.

"There's a vast difference between a true hunter and a poacher. A hunter is a sportsman and most sportsmen I've met have a low tolerance for poaching," explained Jordan.

Check Station Operator Robert Jefferson said most hunters abide by the laws.

"For the most part, most hunters are ethical," said Jefferson.

But poachers hunt in undesignated areas, at inappropriate times and use improper weapons. Most fail to check their kills unless it's a trophy animal they intend to enter into competitions.

"If we notice any illegal activity, we're advised not to apprehend the people. We gather the information -- name and tag number and we report that to law enforcement," said Jefferson.

Jordan said the law will catch up with poachers.

"It might not be this year. It might not be next year, but sooner or later, we'll catch up to them," he said.

Poachers face steep fines, jail time and loss of their vehicles, weapons and hunting rights.

If you have information about poachers, call the Virginia Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712. You could be eligible for a reward if your tip leads to an arrest.


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