MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 1, 2013

Penalties costly for wildlife law offenders


Associated Press

— TULSA (AP) — Those caught violating Oklahoma wildlife laws and regulations can find themselves owing large amounts of money.

The Tulsa World reported Saturday that a yearlong study found nearly 250 wildlife cases filed in Tulsa, Rogers, Wagoner, Washington, Pawnee, Osage, Okmulgee and Creek county district courts between Nov. 1, 2012, and Oct. 31.

The study does not include charges of fishing or hunting without licenses. People caught fishing or hunting without a license can also purchase a temporary 30-day license while in the field for $50.

Carlos Gomez, a Tulsa County game warden, said he only writes citations for the most egregious cases and handles other incidents with warnings, selling temporary licenses and administrative fines.

Fishing without a license, a $221 fine if convicted, is the most common citation issued across Oklahoma and is the easiest violation to discover, Gomez said. With or without a license, fishermen are confined to the water as opposed to people who may be hunting without a license somewhere back in the woods.

The greatest number of cases, 67, were filed in Osage County District Court, more than one-fourth of the total cases in the eight-counties. Osage is the state’s largest county, with many rural areas, so there is more opportunity for people to commit violations, said Paul Welch, one of four game wardens who patrol the area.

“Headlighting,” also called “spotlighting,” is the most dangerous violation he sees, Welch said in reference to the practice of hunters using vehicle headlights to spot deer and shooting out of the vehicles’ windows.

“They’re shooting in the dark,” Welch said. “They don’t know where they’re shooting or what they’re shooting at.”