When four deer were killed last April in central Maine, their bodies left to rot in the spring sun, the disposal was unusual, but the way they died was not.

Hard numbers are difficult to come by, but the illegal killing of game animals is by all accounts a widespread problem, and one that has become more about the thrill of the kill than the need for sustenance.

And though poaching may be a far more shocking crime when the animal is wasted, whether the carcass ends up in a cooler or is discarded in the woods, it is a crime nonetheless, one that goes against the values of the vast majority of Maine sportsmen and women, and does untold harm to one of the state’s great resources.

So while Maine is a national leader in combating poaching, there’s always more to do. And it’ll take the help of all outdoorsmen and women to get it done.

That’s because, with only around 90 game wardens patrolling the vast Maine wilderness, the numbers are certainly on the side of poachers. Every person who hunts, hikes, fishes, kayaks or canoes is another set of eyes on the lookout for illegal activity.

And it doesn’t stop there. Poaching is often committed by a group, and they often talk up their illegal kill, so word tends to get around.

If people are hesitant to drop a dime on a neighbor, they should know this is not a petty crime.

Poached animals are killed far outside of the fair-chase rules followed by most hunters. They are killed at night and, often, out of season, when they are weak and may be pregnant. They sometimes suffer.

It is also an issue of economics and game management.

Wardens are not sure how many deer, moose and other animals are poached each year, but the number is certainly significant. It’s enough so the state must consider it when deciding how many tags to issue to hunters for each species.

And for every doe killed out of season, that can mean another two fawns lost, dealing a blow to the deer population.

It is not a healthy way to treat the hunting industry, which generates around $230 million a year for the state, $68 million alone from deer hunting, and which helps support businesses in some of the most economically stagnant parts of Maine.

Fortunately, the state’s anti-poaching program, Operation Game Thief, has been effective, taking in over 8,000 calls leading to 2,500 convictions, and handing out over $70,000 in rewards.

Operation Game Thief runs entirely on donations, though, and needs the public’s help.

It is also part of a national program, available at wildlifecrimestoppers.org, that allows people to leave tips from the convenience of their smartphones.

All Mainers should support these efforts, and keep an eye out for signs of poaching, so that Maine wildlife, and its hunting industry, are kept healthy for years to come.

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