BALTIMORE (WJZ) — As fall winds down into winter in Maryland, licensed and legal deer hunters head out into woods and fields.
And so do the poachers who kill without regard for the rules.
“Poaching is a pretty big issue,” said Corporal Chris Warden with the Natural Resources Police. “I mean poaching is a theft of our resources, so that’s why we take it very seriously in Maryland.”
Corporal Warden’s patrol route covers Cunningham Falls State Park. He patrols by truck and on foot but he’s not alone.
Natural Resources Police also work the water looking for people who poach oysters and striped bass.
One year, so many were poached, the state closed the season down, hurting watermen who fish legally.
“It killed us. It killed our winter’s work,” said one waterman at the time.
“If things are continually poached, we might not have them for future generations to come,” said Warden. “And a lot of times it takes the public to let us know what’s going on because we might not always see it.”
To help make that happen, Maryland is now participating in the Wildlife Crime Stoppers program, joining other states by providing a way to report poaching on the Department of Natural Resources’ website.
“To give us the leads, we need to stop poaching in Maryland,” said Warden
Poaching can also be dangerous to people, especially when shots are fired at night.
“At night, you’re not able to see what’s beyond your target, so they could end up shooting another person. They could shoot a house. They could shoot somebody’s livestock.”
This makes Natural Resouces Police patrols about more than protecting Maryland’s wildlife.