Hunting laws are put in place in order to preserve animal populations at healthy levels, and give certain species a fighting chance at survival. Hunting licenses and tags are sold by the responsible state organizations such as the Arizona Game And Fish department. In Arizona, and many other states, little to no tax dollars ever go into the coffers of these organizations. hunting and fishing licenses are their sole means of income and provide funding for hunter education and training, maintaining open tracts of land for the purpose of conservation and habitat restoration/preservation, and provides grants for projects that help to reintroduce or bolster endangered populations of animals. Poaching of any kind undermines these activities and constitutes theft from the public as a whole. The crime of poaching is worsened when it involves a rare or endangered animal like the Gould's Turkey.
One of five subspecies of turkey's the Gould's Turkey was wiped out in the united states by the 1960's. Small populations survived in the rugged, hard to access mountain ranges of northern Mexico, but never seemed to be able to spread on their own. With the help of Arizona Game and Fish, and Mexican authorities The National Wild Turkey Foundation has been slowly reintroducing them since the 1980's. Progress has been slow, but the turkey's have been making a comeback in the Sky Islands of Southern Arizona, and there is even a large enough population in the Huachuca Mountains to allow for a small amount of hunting tags for these birds each year. Poaching undermines all of the efforts and money put into reintroducing these birds to Southern Arizona. With a population hovering around 1000 state wide, every Gould's Turkey killed by poachers reduces the population significantly and makes it harder to maintain a reproducing population.
With all of that in mind, it is extremely disheartening to find a story about two men poaching the rare Gould's Turkeys in the Santa Rita mountains just south of Tucson, Arizona.The NBC news article "Reward offered in illegal killing of turkeys" describes a middle aged man around 40 and a sixteen year old boy killing two to three Gould's Turkeys and running from authorities on an ATV. Could this be a father teaching his son that poaching is not a real crime? This type of uncaring ignorance needs to be dealt with swiftly and harshly, but is rarely dealt with at all. The Arizona Game And Fish department in partnership with Operation Game Thief (1-800-352-0700) has offered up a $1750.00 reward for information leading to the capture of these two poachers. Some times it takes a little more then just following the rules to stay within the realm of conservation, it takes hunters and fishermen to report poaching.