Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) introduced
much-needed legislation in the House of Representatives to reform so-called
baiting laws that make it illegal for hunters to Hunt in areas baited
to attract animals. Over 4,200 people have been charged with hunting in
a baited area over the last 5 years; all but 300 of those cases end in
guilty pleas or convictions.
Rep. Young’s bill would not overturn
the baiting prohibition, but instead remove the strict liability requirement
of the law and replace it with a lower liability standard.
The strict liability provision
currently means that in most parts of the country a hunter can be prosecuted
for being in a baited area even if he was completely unaware that the
area was baited. Former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant was charged
in March, for example, for hunting in a baited area in Nebraska on a trip
that had been arranged by that state’s tourism office. Grant claimed he
did not know that there was some corn in a field where the guide took
his party. Under the strict liability requirement such a defense is irrelevant.
Three states — Texas, Louisiana
and Mississippi — already operate under the lower liability standard,
which requires officials to prove that hunters knew they were hunting
in a baited area, after a federal appeals court overturned the strict
liability portion of the anti-baiting law in those states.
The Fish and Wildlife Service,
which is expected to oppose the bill, argues hunters regularly claim they
do not know an area was baited. As Kevin Adams, chief law enforcement
agent for the Fish and Wildlife Service said, “It’s very common for
hunters to say they didn’t know (the bait) was there, when in fact they
either did know or more often than not they took no steps at all to determine
whether it was baited or not.”
This may or may not be true, but
it should be the burden of the state, as in any criminal investigation,
to prove wrongdoing rather than just assume it.
Philip Brasher “Bill Would make it tougher to prosecute ‘baiting’ hunters”
Associated Press April 30, 1998.