Bill would make extreme poaching a felony in Minnesota

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In Minnesota, we value our natural resources. A bill in the State House of Representatives would crack down on extreme poachers.

HF 2999, sponsored by DFL Representative Pete Fischer, of Maplewood, targets hunters and anglers who knowingly exceed possession limits by a lot.

"This would only apply to the worst of the worst poachers in the state of Minnesota," he said Wednesday.

You may not realize this, but under state law, wildlife has value in Minnesota. Each crappie or sunfish over the limit is $5. It’s $400 for bears and turkeys, $500 for deer and $1,000 for a trophy deer.

Fischer wants to make it a felony to have game valued at more than $2,000 in your possession.

"To reach this level of restitution somebody would need to illegally take 400 crappies, 66 walleyes, 40 ducks, five bears, five wild turkeys or four deer or two trophy deer over the limit," Fischer said.

"It is very clear that they would have to have some intent," said DNR Director of Enforcement Col. Rodman Smith. "You don’t accidentally take 66 walleyes over your limit. You don’t accidentally take 400 crappies over your limit. You don’t accidentally shoot four deer over your limit."

Col. Smith testified at a hearing Wednesday. He said, fortunately, these serious violations are rare.

"Tried looking at that yesterday," Smith testified. "And we came up with probably three people in the last 5 years, might have hit this threshold. It’s not common."

Smith was also asked if it’s illegal to keep extra fish in the freezer at the cabin for family fish fry?

"People have, I guess for lack of a better term, family limits, which is not right," he said. "I mean, just because you have a cabin doesn’t mean everybody in your extended family is allowed to have a limit there."

So yes, it’s illegal to keep extra limits of fish in your freezer, but you probably wouldn’t meet the proposed felony threshold.

HF 2999 was tabled to address an issue raised by trappers about whether they would be committing a felony when transporting pelts.