Did you see the news? It should put poachers on notice across the western North Carolina Mountains. State and federal wildlife officials announced last week an undercover operation involving more than 80 wildlife violators and as many as 900 wildlife violations detected. Primary violations stem from illegal bear hunting but include an array of wildlife and game law charges. The investigation continues and more charges are possible.
The four-year investigation called Operations Something’s Bruining targeted poachers in North Carolina and Georgia, with some work in adjacent states. Officers with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission infiltrated poaching circles to document violations including bear baiting, illegal take of bears, deer and other wildlife, illegal use of dogs, operation of illegal bear enclosures in North Carolina, and guiding hunts on national forest lands without the required permits.
Officers began making arrests Tuesday. Operation Something Bruin partners also included the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service.” Operation Something Bruin documented hundreds of wildlife violations,” said Col. Dale Caveny, law enforcement chief for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “These arrests bring an immediate halt to those crimes and, we hope, will make would-be violators think twice before breaking the law.”
Simultaneous press conferences were held Wednesday, February 20th, in Asheville, N.C., and Gainesville, Ga., to announce the results of the four-year undercover operation.“Wildlife is a shared public resource and conservation is a shared responsibility” said Gordon Myers, executive director of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “North Carolinians can assist wildlife enforcement officers in their duties by reporting possible violations. We all have a vested interest in safeguarding wildlife from poaching. By targeting wildlife thieves, Operation Something Bruin helps protect our outdoor heritage and conserves wildlife for future generations.”
If you have read this column for any time, you know how I feel about game law violators. My business and volunteer work as a Hunter Education instructor brings me in contact with several local wildlife enforcement officers. And we do have a poaching problem here in the mountains. This operation should send tremors throughout the poaching community as well it should. Not only are they violating the law, but their activities are stealing from the law-abiding hunters who pay their license fees which are used for habitat work for a thriving game population.
We have low game numbers in the mountains to begin with. We don’t need game thieves making it worse. I can’t wait until the list of offenders is published. It may take up an entire column but you will see them published here. They are a pariah on hunters and should be shunned by decent folks in the mountains.
The regular hunting season officially ended February 28th and so did another period. With weather patterns fluctuating, warm days mixed with cold and rainy there is the temptation to hit the trout streams. You need to remember the Wildlife Resources Commission closed approximately 1,000 miles of Hatchery Supported Trout Waters to fishing one-half hour after sunset on Feb. 28 and will reopen them at 7 a.m. on April 6. During this period that is closed to fishing, Commission personnel will stock all Hatchery Supported Trout Waters in preparation for opening day. They stock Hatchery Supported Trout Waters, which are marked by green-and-white signs, at frequent intervals in the spring and early summer every year.
This year, Commission personnel will stock approximately 900,000 trout, 96 percent of which average 10 inches in length, with the other 4 percent exceeding 14 inches in length. While fishing on Hatchery Supported Trout Waters, anglers can harvest a maximum of seven trout per day, with no minimum size limit or bait restriction. Hatchery Supported Trout Waters are open from 7 a.m. on the first Saturday in April until one-half hour after sunset on the last day of February the following year.
For all you anglers don’t be put off. Remember that this closing does not affect Delayed-Harvest (Black and white signs), Wild Trout (brown and gold signs), or Catch-and-Release (purple and gold signs; red and gold signs) trout waters. They are still open for business. Just be sure to read the regulation digest to make sure you are meeting the lure requirements for each. March is a month to mend and prepare for the upcoming turkey and fishing seasons. Hopefully we will have a few early spring days to get out and enjoy some fishing!