State senators debate tougher fines for hunting violations

Bobcat in Hadley; ReportIt photo by Joanne Keller

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts lawmakers want to crack down on illegal hunting.

The bill would increase penalties for illegally hunting bears, deer and endangered species. In addition to fines, hunters could face imprisonment in certain cases under the bill.

The Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed a bill that would update the state’s poaching laws policies that haven’t been updated since the 1930s according to lawmakers. The bill would enable Massachusetts to share data with other states on people who violate the fish and game law.

People who have violated the law in other states can currently still hunt here, according to Pittsfield State Senator Adam Hinds.

“So if somebody has violated these poaching provisions, they could come here and still get licenses and continue to do their hunting,” said Senator Hinds.

The bill also increases fines and penalties for illegal hunting. Some offenders could face prison time of up to six months in addition to paying fines.

In some cases, offenders could have to pay fines of up to $5,000 for unlawfully killing or possessing a bear or up to $1,000 for a deer or turkey.

“From talking with them, the abiding gun owners and the law-abiding hunters, they’re the ones really most concerned about people that are poaching,” said State Senator Jim Welch.

The bill also includes a provision that would require people who illegally take or possess certain animals to pay the state for the value of what they’ve illegally taken, also known as restitution. Restitution fines for endangered species are $2,000.