Target: Forrest K. Wegge, Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney
Goal: Punish the poacher who shot, skinned, and mutilated a black bear harshly.
Conservation agents discovered a dead bear in Jefferson County, Missouri. The animal had been shot, skinned and mutilated; the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch reports that enough of the bear was missing to prevent identification of its age and sex. Authorities believe they have found the, as yet undisclosed, poacher. However, ensuring appropriate punishment is as important as identifying a killer.
So far, the alleged poacher only faces a misdemeanor citation, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and a sentence of up to a year in jail. The leniency of that penalty comes despite the grave threats the black bear faces in Missouri. During the settlement of that state, in the late 19th-century, the black bear population was nearly wiped out. It has only recently begun to recover with the help of concerted conservation efforts, reports the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch. Not only does the maximum penalty for the bear’s killing fail to reflect the seriousness of the plight facing black bears in Missouri, the alleged poacher could potentially escape with nothing but a slap on the wrist if he is offered a favorable plea bargain.
While prosecutors can only exact the punishments allowed by law, we can urge them to exact the greatest penalty possible. Call on authorities not to accept a plea deal. Urge them, instead, to hold the accused responsible to account for killing and mutilating a majestic, innocent creature.
Dear Mr. Wegge,
When a dead bear was discovered, having been shot, skinned, and mutilated, conservation agents worked swiftly to identify its killer. Thankfully, they believe that they have found the individual they accuse of poaching the bear. With that important work done, your task begins.
Please ensure that the bear’s killer is punished to the greatest extent possible. While the crime in question constrains your prosecution to a maximum fine of $1,000 and a sentence of up to a year in jail, you can work to secure a punishment as close as possible to those maximums. Such an aggressive prosecution is vital in light of the serious threats facing bears in Missouri. During the early history of the state, black bears were hunted almost to extinction. Their population has only recently begun to recover with the help of a concerted human effort.
Send a message to the people of Missouri, and to any potential poachers in the state, that the killing of black bears will not be tolerated. Do not accept a plea bargain that would allow the accused poacher to escape with a slap on the wrist. Instead, teach the poacher and others like him that Missouri values its wildlife by insisting on the maximum allowable penalty for the bear’s death.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Fidelis Orozco