What Is Poaching?

Taking animals from their natural habitats is unfortunately legal...to a point

White Rhino (Ceratotherium sim) Horns with Game Ranger. Hluhluwe Umfolozi Park, KwaZulu Natal Provin
Daryl Balfour / Getty Images

Poaching is the illegal taking of wildlife, in violation of local, state, federal or international law. Activities that are considered poaching include killing an animal out of season, without a license, with a prohibited weapon, or in a prohibited manner such as backlighting. Killing a protected species, exceeding one's bag limit or killing an animal while trespassing is also considered to be poaching.

Some examples of poaching include the taking of eggs from the nest of a loggerhead turtle. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Loggerheads arrive on Florida beaches in April and continue to arrive and lay eggs through September. Anyone caught stealing these eggs and convicted may be sentenced up to five years in federal prison and/or required to pay a $250,000 fine.

The big event known as "mini lobster season takes place every summer in the Florida Keys.During that time, which precedes commercial lobster operations, anyone can take to the water and snatch a spiny lobster from their "hide holes" and toss them in a cooler. Many a boatload of partying fishermen has stepped off the boat, selected "his" catch and begins to make for the car. But hold on, not so fast. A Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer is lying in wait to see your catch.

He peers into the cooler and sees a number of doomed spiny lobsters squirming vainly to escape.

The officer reaches in his back pocket and pulls out a measuring device. Plucking the lobsters one-by-one on a table, he measures each one in the legally prescribed manner, He places the device on the lobster's carapace to check the size. That state puts a limit on the size of the lobster, According to this state mandate,  "A lobster with a carapace or body measuring at least 3 inches would be 2-3 years old and old enough to have reproduced at least one season." The penalty, according to the Florida State Statues are  a bit harsh: "Upon a first conviction, by imprisonment for a period of not more than 60 days or by a fine of not less than $100 nor more than $500, or by both such fine and imprisonment,"

And do it again, if you are so inclined, and you could face a whole new fresh hell. You could go to prison for six months and a possible thousand dollar crime. 

That's one hell of a lobster dinner.

At right, a trophy on display at the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, Monmouth County, NJ. A plaque below the trophy reads in part, "This buck was illegally taken during the 2003 extended bow season in Manalapan Township, Monmouth County. It scored 134 0/8 Boone and Crockett and would have made the Pope and Young Club if taken legally. Conservation Officer Greg Szulecki investigated the case."

Many state wildlife management agencies have hotlines that the public can call to report poaching. So it's not always the guy in the uniform, there are undercover cops everywhere.

This article was re-written by Michelle A Rivera, About Animal Rights Expert