If you’re one of the millions of California voters who helped pass Proposition 2 on November 4, chances are pretty good that your Thanksgiving meal will include some sort of free-range, hormone-free dead bird—or, if you fall into the veg camp, maybe a more benign Tofurky or Field Roast. But for illegal poachers like Peter Ciraula of Gilroy, California, odds are good that the celebratory meal will include breast of snow goose, leg of endangered sandhill crane, or perhaps a pot-pie of protected swan.
“[Ciraula] said he was going to eat some of them,” said Department of Fish and Game warden Patrick Foy, “But when we asked him why he had so many, he never really never offered up a very valid explanation.”
Ciraula had more than 300 dead and wounded wild birds in his possession when he was busted by the Feds last January—approximately 289 more birds than the legal limit allows. Ciraula pleaded no contest but was found guilty of poaching on November 14 and sentenced to two years probation. He was also banned from hunting for one year.
The California Department of Fish and Game says they’ve not seen bird poaching on this scale since the early 1900s, and Foy says it’s a growing trend that can be chalked up to difficult economic times. “We will absolutely see more poachers in our numbers,” he grimly prognosticated.
Perhaps those considering illegal poaching to sustain themselves through difficult financial times should instead seek out the local, legal, and a lot less messy Food Not Bombs dispensary.
Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Game