Poachers fined $55,000 for illegally killing 265 snow geese

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Snow geese collected in case against poachers. Photo: Via the Pennsylvania Game Commission

What’s the penalty for illegally blasting 265 snow geese out of the sky, or while they are on the ground foraging in fields?

For five Pennsylvania residents who recently pleaded guilty of killing the birds in Berks County, the fine was $55,000.

Probably not severe enough, according to many.

The hunters actually killed 365 snow geese during the spring hunt, but the daily bag limit is 25 per hunter, and one hunter didn't have a proper license, so it was determined that only 265 birds were deemed over the limit.

The last of the defendants pleaded guilty on Monday to the April 1 incident, and on Tuesday the Pennsylvania Game Commission issued a news release, stating that officers acted on a tip.

"On that that date, the officers arrived and found evidence of a large number of snow geese had been shot,” the news release states. “Through their investigation, it was learned that the five defendants had killed 365 snow geese."

Snow geese, which migrate throughout much of the United States and Canada, fly quickly and at high altitudes, but will land for long layovers in various staging areas, where they graze voraciously in fields.

Hunting for snow geese in the eastern U.S. was halted in 1916 because their populations had been decimated, but hunting was reinstated in 1975 because populations had rebounded.

The five Pennsylvania hunters found guilty of poaching ranged in age from 35 to 34. The most excessive fine was $14,990, leveled against the hunter who did not possess a migratory bird license. He also pleaded guilty to 73 counts of "unlawful taking and possession of snow geese."

The Game Commission posted the news to its Facebook page, and was applauded by many commenters for catching the poachers.

“I’m all for hunting, but this is just unnecessary slaughter. So happy they were prosecuted,” reads one comment.

But others described the birds as environmentally destructive nuisances, and implied there should be no bag limit.

The Game Commission pointed out that the birds were not wasted.

"After the birds were gathered and evidence was collected, Game Commission officials transported the carcasses to a processor and then donated 288 pounds of goose meat to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank in Harrisburg," the news release states. "The cost of processing was added to the defendants' penalty.”

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