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Ruling: Hunters Responsible for Identifying Targets Before Shooting

posted Sep 4, 2017, 9:25 PM by chloe owens

7/4/17, by Erin Ford, Grand Canyon News

Ruling: hunters responsible for identifying targets before shooting

In a June 17 ruling, a federal judge struck down the Department of Justice’s “McKittrick Policy,” allowing prosecutors to more aggressively pursue charges against those who kill protected wildlife species, including Mexican wolves. Judge David Bury of the Arizona District Court, found in favor of plaintiffs WildEarth Guardians and New Mexico Wildlife Alliance, who filed suit in 2015 against the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for failing to prosecute those who killed species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). At the heart of the lawsuit is the McKittrick Policy, which advises the DOJ to prosecute only when it can prove that an offender knowingly killed a protected species. The plaintiffs argued that the DOJ almost never brought charges against those who killed an endangered animal if that individual claimed it was a case of mistaken identity — believing a protected wolf to be a coyote, for example…The court’s published opinion found that the McKittrick Policy was “outside the range of prosecutorial authority” given to DOJ under the ESA. Writing for the court, Bury stated the government “does not need to prove the defendant knew that killing an endangered or threatened species was illegal or that the animal he or she shot was protected under the law.” The opinion echoes a provision of the USFWS wolf introduction program, which is part of the ESA and subject to a formal rule-making procedure in Congress. The Final Rule of that procedure places the responsibility of species identification on the hunter, stating “hunters (and others) who might shoot a wolf are responsible for identifying their targets before shooting.”