What is Poaching?

Photos of dead elephants, giraffes, and lions being hunted for trophies circulate online and spark outrage, but often leaves us thinking that poaching is something that happens in other places or on a large scale. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Thousands of people are arrested for poaching in the United States every year, and even then it’s estimated only between 1%-5% of poachers are actually caught.

So what is poaching, exactly? Poaching refers to the illegal killing of a wild animal. This can look like killing and/or mutilating a protected animal, killing an animal without a permit or outside of its season, or even killing an additional number of animals over permit limits.

Poaching can be detrimental to our environment, by altering ecosystems through the undue removal of prey and predators that can create an imbalance of resources. While poaching can easily be linked to the decline of protected species, many people don’t realize that killing common animals that aren’t under a general threat of depopulation can still cause massive problems in ecosystems. Ecologists and biologists research the appropriate amount of animals that can be taken each year and still maintain healthy forests, hence permitting processes existing in the first place. Both under-harvesting and over-harvesting animals can cause ecosystems to lose biodiversity and therefore make them more susceptible to ecological and climatic disturbances. Well managed ecosystems are resilient ecosystems!

So what can be done about poaching? Through education, improved TIP (Turn In Poachers) lines, and increased rewards for information given to identify poaching crimes, both the government and communities are working together to prevent unlawful wildlife killings. An online identification quiz was released last year from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to prevent the often-made claim that poachers thought their wolf kill was actually a coyote, with the hope that clear communication can help.

Oregon is establishing anti-poaching efforts in the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division with our state’s first ever Conservation K-9, Buck, who has shown success in sniffing out poaching crimes. To learn more about this pilot program, you can watch our Poaching Prevention episode of Community Conservation.

With collaboration from hunters, anglers, and community members, we can all work together to stop wildlife crimes. To learn more about how to spot poaching, visit myodfw.com. If you think you have witnessed illegal poaching, you can call the TIP line at *O-S-P or 1-800-452-7888.