Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Danger Of Protecting Natural Resources

The link below will take you to the Officer Down Memorial Page.  There you will learn about Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove who was shot down outside Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.  Officer Grove was murdered while on a vehicle stop of a suspected wildlife poacher.  The poacher turned out to be a convicted felon who had sworn not to go back to jail.

The image that many have of wildlife poachers is that of some local individual just trying to make ends meet and feed his family.  During more than thirty two years as a National Park Ranger I never met that individual.  The poachers that I dealt with were most likely involved in a variety of criminal pursuits and had already developed an impressive list of arrests or charges.  Attempted murder, assault and battery, dealing in controlled substances, burglary, bad checks, identity theft, larceny, auto theft, dealing in stolen property, and marijuana cultivation are among the litany of crimes that were also the business of poachers.

What motivated these individuals to illegally kill wildlife in National Parks was profit.  They either profited monetarily or in status and bragging rights among their peers.  One group of poachers who were also breaking into homes, dealing in drugs, and included one who had been in prison for attempted murder were killing as much wildlife as possible in Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway on a bet.  They documented their kills with Polaroid photos and the one that illegally killed the most game animals by the end of the year would win a case of beer.  Many of their kills were slaughtered and the meat sold on the illegal market for money to cover their gas and bullet costs.  An interagency investigation between the National Park Service and the State of Virginia eventually put these individuals in jail.  The total number of deer, bear, and bobcats they killed was never determined.

All these factors contribute to the dangers faced by park rangers, forest service law enforcement officers, and wildlife officers nationwide.

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