Senate votes to cut civil penalty for deer poaching

    Senators have approved a bill to slash by two-thirds the civil penalty for poaching antlerless deer. (Creative Commons photo via Pxhere)

    Iowa senators, citing concerns about crop damage and car accidents caused by deer, approved a bill Wednesday to cut by two-thirds the civil penalty for killing antlerless deer out of season and ordering a study on deer population in the state.

    Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, said he regularly sees as many as nine deer carcasses along a 20-mile stretch of road when he drives to Ottumwa in February for legislative forums.  “I don’t need a study to tell me that we have a problem to that extent,” he said.

    He noted that the scheduled file for poaching remains the same, but the civil penalty exceeds the current $1,000 civil penalty for taking an animal on the endangered species list.

    Senate File 581 originally would have cut the civil penalty for killing antlerless deer out of season to $200 from the current $1,500 per animal. But senators approved an amendment offered by Sen. Tim Goodwin, R-Burlington, to increase the penalty to $500.

    Goodwin noted that Rozenboom proposed a bill earlier in the session that would have cut the civil penalty to $50 for poaching antlerless deer. That bill, Senate File 464, also would have refunded to hunters convicted of poaching the difference of $1,450 per deer. He said the higher penalty was the result of discussions with law enforcement.

    “I worked with law enforcement, boots on the ground in Des Moines County and Louisa County, and asked them to come up with a number that they thought that they could work with and support the bill,” Goodwin said.

    The bill also would lower the fee from $15 to $2 for “depredation licenses” that allow extra hunting on properties heavily damaged by deer. Some licenses for landowners to hunt their own land are free. It allows for an extra rifle-hunting season in January for counties where the allocation of antlerless tags was not fully sold.

    Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, opposed the bill, in part because he said he didn’t believe lower fines or an extra hunting season would address the problem of overpopulation in certain areas. “I fully understand the concerns of our farmers out there. But I don’t believe this is going to solve the problem because deer are intelligent, and they’re going to know where to hide out. And that won’t change by this bill,” he said.

    Rozenboom said he agreed deer are smart. “Unfortunately, that wisdom doesn’t extend to when they see two headlights coming. And that’s part of the problem,” he said.

    The bill moves to the House.

    Kathie Obradovich
    Editor Kathie Obradovich has been covering Iowa government and politics for more than 30 years, most recently as political columnist and opinion editor for the Des Moines Register. She previously covered the Iowa Statehouse for 10 years for newspapers in Davenport, Waterloo, Sioux City, Mason City and Muscatine. She is a leading voice on Iowa politics and makes regular appearances on state, national and international news programs. She has led national-award-winning coverage of the Iowa Caucuses and the Register’s Iowa Poll.