Poaching is the illegal killing of wildlife, which is generally considered a criminal misdemeanor. Animals often are killed illegally for their meat, skin, or body parts. One of the driving forces of poaching is the worldwide trade of illegal animal parts, such as ivory and fur. Many animal parts also are sold for use in traditional Chinese medicine. Poaching is often done in connection with wildlife trafficking.

Are there Federal Laws that Prohibit Poaching?

There are several federal laws governing the illegal killing of wildlife:

  • The Lacey Act - prohibits the import, export, sale, or transportation of illegally killed wildlife. A violation of the Lacey act is punishable by one year in prison and up to $100,000 in fines for individuals or $200,000 for organizations. A felony violation of the Lacey Act results in even higher fines.
  • The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act - prohibits the killing or trade of bald or golden eagles, which is punishable by a $5,000 fine and up to one year in prison. The poaching of eagles can also result in a loss of grazing rights on federal lands if the perpetrator had such rights.
  • Under Title 18 of the United States Code - it is illegal to unlawfully hunt, trap, capture, disturb, or kill any bird, fish, or wildlife. A violation of this law can result in a $1000 fine and imprisonment of up to one year.

Are there State Laws that Prohibit Poaching?

Many states, such as Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, have initiated anti-poaching programs. Under these programs, rewards are given to individuals who come forth with information about poachers. Over the past several years, many poachers have been caught under these anti-poaching programs. However, the inconsistency among state laws does allow some loop holes for the trading of illegal animal parts.

Do I Need a Lawyer for my Poaching Problem?

If you have been accused of poaching, an experienced criminal defense attorney can advise you of your legal rights and defenses, and ensure that you are given all the protections guaranteed by the law. A criminal defense lawyer also can represent you in court.