Following the lead of some of its neighboring states, Michigan has implemented new laws aimed at deterring poaching and recreational trespassing.
Beginning this month, the changes to the fines and restitution payments for poaching include a progressive penalty system of fines for trophy-sized deer.
*For any deer with or without antlers, the base restitution will be $1,000.
*For any antlered deer, there will be an additional restitution of $1,000 plus, for antlered deer with 8 to 10 points, an additional $500 will be assessed for each point.
*For antlered deer with 11 or more points, an additional $750 will be assessed for each point.
A “point” is defined in the new law as being at least 1 inch long as measured from its tip to the nearest edge of the antler beam. Under the new law, illegally killing a 10-point buck in Michigan will now result in $7,000 restitution, plus fines and court costs.
Despite the increase in restitution, Michigan will not be on par with Ohio, where a similar law has been in place for several years. A poacher who pleaded guilty in 2009 to illegally taking a buck that scored 197 was ordered to make restitution of $23,000. A case in 2010 cost an Ohio violator nearly $28,000 in restitution.
The new Michigan law also increases the period of time convicted game law violators will forfeit their right to hunt. Previously, poachers would lose hunting privileges for the remainder of the year of the conviction, plus 3 years. Under the new law, poachers who kill an antlered buck will lose their hunting privileges for an additional 2 years on their first offense (potentially 6 years in total) and an additional 7 years on second and subsequent offenses (potentially 11 years in total).
The new laws also address recreational trespass by increasing the civil damage award that a landowner may recover. Previously, the maximum amount a landowner could recover from someone who trespasses on his or her land to hunt or engage in other recreational activity was $250 or actual property damages. Under the new law, the civil action increases to $750 or actual property damages. Additionally, if someone kills any protected animal, game or fish while trespassing, the new law creates a new misdemeanor with higher fines than allowed for a first violation.
“Poachers who are targeting trophy deer will commit multiple violations to do so, including trespass, unlawful shining, hunting at night and not wearing hunter orange,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR Law Enforcement Division. “These new laws give us more tools to go after these individuals, and are designed to reduce poaching of antlered deer in particular.”