Bill would allow forgiveness for mistakenly harvested elk, bears

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HARRISBURG, PA. — State Rep. Bill Kortz, D-Allegheny, announced on Monday that a bill he co-prime sponsored to allow hunters to keep their licenses in the event they accidently harvest certain big-game animals unanimously passed the House on concurrence.

The measure, H.B. 359, seeks to reward ethical, truthful hunters who turn themselves into the Pennsylvania Game Commission and surrender the animal they mistakenly harvested.

“Mistakes happen, whether we like to admit it or not. This bill looks to draw a line between an accidental harvest and an intentional harvest of specific animals,” Kortz said.

Currently, a hunter who harvests a deer or turkey of the wrong sex or accidently kills two can turn the animals into a wildlife conservation officer. The hunter will then receive a new tag, pay a small fine and a keep their license.

However, H.B. 359 looks to expand this practice to include two big-game animals – bear and elk. The legislation would also forgive hunters for mistakenly hunting in the wrong place and harvesting an animal in the wrong hunting zone. The harvested animal must be turned in to the Game Commission within 24 hours.

“House Bill 359 does not change the poaching laws nor any penalties hunters face for illegal, out-of-season killings,” Kortz said. “Instead, we hope that this bill will reward ethical, honest hunters by treating them differently than poachers, while also promoting the self-reporting of honest hunting mistakes.”

This legislation was also supported by the Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs; it passed the Senate 50-0.

The bill now heads to the governor’s office for his signature.

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