One of Pennsylvania's majestic bull elks is dead because of a greedy crime.
Earlier this month, somebody shot the five-by-five elk as it meandered through a residential neighborhood in the northwestern part of the state.
As sportsmen, we often discuss the ills of poaching, but we do little about it. We hear the late-night gun shots and we hear the poachers bragging, but unless it directly impacts them, few sportsmen give the subject much thought.
Let me make it clear. Poachers are not hunters. To say so would be the equivalent of calling a burglar a shopper. They are thieves, plain and simple.
And let me make it equally clear that poaching is a highly destructive crime and every citizen of the Commonwealth is a victim each time a deer is jacklighted, a fish is snagged or a hawk is shot.
Article I, Section 27 of the state's constitution reads: "The people have a right to clean air, pure water and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come."
When a poacher sticks his rifle out his window or nets a fish from a creek, he is eradicating your right to that animal.
Instead of ending up as evidence, that poached animal could have led to a memory of a lifetime or a trophy that is talked about for generations. The eight-point buck that was destined to walk under your grandson's tree stand on a brisk fall morning should not be destroyed by a greedy criminal's bullet just to lay rotting along the wooded edge of a cornfield.
Few folks that know the facts will accept the argument that poachers kill to put food on their table. Far too many poachers are caught firing out of brand new trucks or are seen sneaking back to camps loaded with four wheelers for that to be the case. Plain and simple, poaching is all about greed and ego.
Our responsibility as sportsmen is to do our part to eliminate poachers. When you see a game thief, turn him in. When they brag about their so-called success, treat them as the criminals they are. Force them out of our ranks.
When the person that pulled the trigger on that prized elk is caught, he or she faces stiff penalties. The fine can run as high as $15,000 and include up to 36 months in jail. Plus, the offender will be forced to pay a mandatory replacement cost of $5,000.
Poaching is a serious crime that requires a determined fight. We don't tolerate criminals stealing from our cars and homes. We must not tolerate them stealing from our woods and waterways.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.