Illegal hunting, sometimes known as poaching, is the killing of animals without permission or in violation of conservation and wildlife management laws. There are several types of illegal hunting, many of which are seen as serious issues by environmentalists. Illegal hunting is believed to be a major contributor to the demise of many species throughout the world. In addition to breaking the law, illegal hunting can be a threat to biodiversity and even cause extinction.
Certain animals, such as deer, may be legally hunted in some places during certain times of the year. Often, when game animals are in their breeding season, hunting is prohibited in order to ensure the continuity of the species. Illegal hunting out of season can damage the future population by killing off pregnant females or breeding males. Penalties for hunting out of season may include fines and prohibition from future access to hunting licenses.
In a season where hunting is permitted, hunters are often limited as to how many and what type of animals may be killed. In the name of ensuring species continuity, animals under a certain age or size may be protected from hunting. In wildlife managed areas, there may also be a quota of kills per hunter, in order to protect the species from an unsustainable loss of population. Hunting areas may also require licenses to hunt legally, which may only be given to a certain amount of hunters and have requirements such as a minimum age limit. Hunting without a license or failure to follow restrictions can lead to fines, jail time, and revocation of license.
In areas where animals are protected by law, such as wildlife preserves, any type of hunting is illegal. Conservation laws against hunting are put in place because a species shows clear signs of an unsustainable population loss, due to both excess hunting and other factors such as pollution or diminishing habitat. Poaching endangered species is taken very seriously in many regions, especially regarding populations that are near extinction levels. In some regions, illegal hunting of protected species carries a very high fine, sometimes in excess of $100,000 US Dollars (USD). In more strict regions, game wardens may be permitted to kill poachers found hunting in protected areas.
Illegal hunting is a serious problem in many regions of the world; as animal populations continue to dwindle worldwide, the careful management of both endangered and game species becomes critical to long-term survival. Though some people resent restrictions on hunting, the laws are often put in place to prevent the disruption of an animal or fish population that could have ramifications up and down the ecological chain.