Poachers put on notice

Hunters in Kansas take pride in giving the game a “sporting” chance whether it be deer, turkey, quail, pheasant. Unfortunately, there are those people who disregard the rules and regulation to the sport of hunting and fishing.
That’s where Ben Womelsdorf and other Natural Resource Officers of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks step in. Womelsdorf, an Iola native, is the part of the law enforcement division of the KDWP and is responsible for all of Allen County and the northern part of Neosho County concerning wildlife and parks.
Jason Deal, Natural Resource Officer in Woodson County, also stretched his duties into Allen County while the local position was vacant. Womelsdorf was in training and received this “home territory” assignment this year.
Unfortunately, the Allen County and Woodson County area has seen an increase in poaching, especially for deer. But thanks to tips from the public a deer poaching case here in Allen County late in 2008 was solved and prosecuted by the state authorities.
“We need the community’s help to curb poaching. That is why the department (KDWP) has the Operation Game Thief number. Anyone with information about poaching or other violations to our hunting, fishing and natural resources can call in a tip to that number,” Womelsdorf said.
The case in Allen County involved poachers killing deer for their heads and antlers. Deal was the game warden on that case.
Womelsdorf had a turkey poaching case this spring. He said an individual called the local sheriff when he noticed someone trespassing. He said four hours after the poacher illegally shot a tom and hen turkey on posted property, the shooter was fined $1,600, including court costs.
Contacting law enforcement officers, whether it is a sheriff or the KDWP office, helps bring justice against poachers in Kansas. Kansas has several “compact states,” Womelsdorf explains, so that if violations are ticketed in Kansas and the violators leave for another state, the Kansas laws are upheld in the other state. The reverse is true but in the turkey poaching case, the violator was from Arkansas, a non-compact state.
“So if the concerned citizen hadn’t called, we would have no recourse in that case once the individual had returned home,” Womelsdorf.
Womelsdorf encouraged people to use Operation Game Thief — 1-877-426-3843 — when they see violations. There is someone to answer those calls 24-7.
It’s not all about hunting violations either. Fishing licenses are needed in the state of Kansas to fish in a river, a creek, a lake or a pond, unless you own the lake or pond.
Womelsdorf recently was called to the Santa Fe Lake at Chanute to rescue an adult Canada goose and a gosling (baby goose). They had swum into the weeds and become entangled in fishing line.
He said the line was wrapped so tightly that he could barely get it cut off without injuring the geese. This one has a happy ending — both parent and baby survived and swam away.
It was a case of littering. Someone had dropped excess fishing line on the ground or cut a snagged line and left it anchored in the water.
Remember, we are the caretakers of our natural resources. If we don’t use them responsibly, others won’t be able to enjoy them.
Natural resources include the wildlife. Hunt, fish and play as much as you want but don’t break the rules along the way. Littering is against the law as much as shooting wildlife out of season or without a license or permit.
Have fun out there but be responsible.