State uses points to track hunters' violations

Monday, October 15, 2007

As deer season in Missouri approaches, an internal point system used by the Department of Conservation may cause some hunters to have their licenses revoked for wildlife violations, conservation agents say.

The system is similar to that used by the Missouri Department of Revenue to revoke driver's licenses, only it is more discretionary, said Denise Brown, an administrator with the Missouri Department of Conservation in Jefferson City.

"It's not an absolute system," Brown said.

The Department of Conservation uses a statewide database to bring to its attention people who are being considered for revocation of their hunting license.

These people are contacted at least twice before their case goes before a review board and given ample opportunity to provide mitigating information before their license is actually suspended, Brown said.

If the board decides to revoke a hunting or fishing license, a hunter's ability to purchase a permit will be blocked during the period of their revocation.

For example, on Sept. 7 the Southeast Missourian reported that Joshua E. Dibert and Cody L. Roberts of Cape Girardeau were charged with discharging a firearm on a public road, attempting to take wildlife with artificial light, hunting from a motor vehicle and attempting to take deer out of season.

Police said the two men attempted to shoot deer from their Geo Metro while parked on the corner of Sprigg and Bertling streets.

Roberts pleaded guilty to unlawful use of a weapon and driving with a revoked license Oct. 11, but three counts of taking wildlife illegally are still pending against Dibert.

If convicted of those charges, Dibert may end up with points on his hunting permit because a record of the charges will show up in the Department of Conservation computer database.

There are other reasons someone may have his hunting license pulled besides wildlife violations that cause them to accrue 16 points, according to Marty Beck, assistant internal auditor for the Department of Conservation.

For instance, a separate review board will assess whether someone involved in a hunting accident should have their license temporarily suspended.

Anyone prosecuted for not paying child support will also automatically have their license suspended, and sometimes the court will impose a suspended hunting license as part of a sentence, Beck said.

In 2006, 134 Missourians had their hunting licenses suspended due to wildlife violations.

There were 996 licenses revoked from nonsupport charges, 18 because of hunting accidents and 30 revocations were court imposed, Beck said.

"Hunting and fishing licenses are a privilege, and the Department of Conservation can revoke that privilege with cause," said Darin Pettit, Cape Girardeau conservation agent.

Accumulating 16 points on a hunting license will cause the review board to consider a revocation, Pettit said.

The list of violations is lengthy and specific, but there are some that are worth more points than others.

Beck said taking a deer out of season is a 12-point infraction, and driving an ATV through a stream is a 16-point penalty.

Class 2, or severe, littering, such as dumping a truckload of trash in a wooded area, will cost 16 points and possible revocation, Beck said.

The point system is between three and six years old, although sources could not say when it was first activated.

"We've learned a lot from it in the time we've been using it," Beck said.

335-6611, extension 245

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