The arrest Feb. 7 of Shane M. Babbs, 26, rural Oblong, puts a major dent in the area poaching problem, said Sgt. David Hyatt of the Illinois Conservation Police.
When officers went to Babbs's home they found five deer heads, ducks, coyotes and hides from multiple fur-bearing animals, Hyatt said. It appears Babbs was driving around and shooting animals at random, Hyatt said,
Poaching is a "background problem" in the area, said hunter and deer processor Megan Selby of Flat Rock. She works at Stork's Custom Butchery, where they process hundreds of deer a year. They see few animals that are killed illegally, she said, because hunters have to turn in the tag used to track the animal.
Most poachers skin and butcher their animals in out-of-the-way places, especially homes, she said.
Hauling an intact animal out of the hunting area is not always the choice for deer killed illegally. Sometimes hunters will cut off whatever part of the animal they want and ditch the remainder. At least one deer had its hindquarters sawn off and was thrown into a dry creek.
The meat is not the only part of an animal that can be turned to financial gain. The head becomes a trophy, the hides are sold in bulk and antlers become knives, pens or various decorations. All of these provide a financial incentive for poaching, according to the Illinois Department of National Resources.
Many of the efforts by the IDNR are preventive, said Paul Shelton, manager of the forest wildlife program.
"Simply put, we're trying to manage the resource so that it thrives, and so that all citizens have equal opportunity to enjoy it," he said.
He compared the possibility of large-scale, uncontrolled poaching to the commercial harvests from about 1850 to 1900 that nearly exterminated deer and turkeys in Illinois. Hunting on those two species was banned from 1901 to 1957 to allow for the restocking and recovery of the populations.
There's also an issue of fairness, Shelton said, as poachers steal resources and opportunities from all other Illinoisans.
Poachers include young people who enjoy the thrill of rule-breaking and more serious hunters who simply ignore the regulations, Selby said.
Babbs was in the later category, according to Hyatt, He allegedly used lights and hunted from a vehicle, both of which are illegal for certain types of hunting.
Poaching goes against the North American Wildlife Conservation Model, which is credited with saving numerous species from extinction in the United States and Canada.
Conservation of hunted species comes in part from limits on hunting. In the case of deer and turkeys, that's in the form of tags and a limited number of licenses. With animals like the coyotes and fur-bearers Babbs allegedly killed, it comes from bag limits, hunting times and season lengths.
Those regulatory limits are in part guided by the population projections biologists develop, Shelton said. Scientists track the populations as a whole, he said, accounting for factors like vehicular accidents, disease and hunting.
Babbs was arrested on charges of unlawful taking or possession of deer and obstruction of justice. He will also be charged with meth manufacturing for a lab found in his home, Crawford County Sheriff Todd Liston said.
The Conservation Police have a program, Target Illinois Poachers, in which residents can submit tips on poaching. The phone number is 1-877-2DNRLAW (236-7529) and email is email@example.com.