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SD senators could increase hunting-trespass penalty

Hunters who trespass while seeking their prey may face stiffer penalties if the Legislature approves a compromise this week. (Republic file photo)

PIERRE -- Hunters found guilty of trespassing would lose their privileges for two years and the crime would be more specifically defined, under a legislative compromise reached between sportsmen and landowner groups.

The current penalty is one year. State senators are scheduled to consider the changes Tuesday.

In addition to the stiffer penalty, the definition would require the person to be in possession of a valid hunting license and a firearm, and found to be "traveling by foot or motor vehicle upon or across private land in an attempt to locate, flush, drive, pursue, or take game or is en route to a hunting destination."

Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, is the legislation's sponsor. He originally proposed a penalty of one to three years but said the two years will serve as a stronger deterrent.

"We certainly prosecute those without a hunting license under a separate provision," said Emmett Keyser, assistant director for the state Wildlife Division.

Jeremiah M. Murphy, representing the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, and Chris Hesla, for the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, testified in favor last week.

Hesla previously opposed it. He said the federation supports it after negotiations with Murphy and Brown.

"We agree with the amendments today and I think they cleared it up completely," Hesla said.

The key remains that a person must be caught trespassing before the penalty would kick in.

"You're going to have mistakes. People get lost. People chase strays onto other people's property," Murphy said. "I believe it's specific enough to fill the hole we have in law today."

He said hunting trespass is similar to someone lurking outside a house or business with burglary tools.

Brown said 48 citations for hunting trespass were issued last year. He said those were the initial charge but it's unknown how many were reduced to other charges.

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee endorsed the compromise version 7-0 Thursday.

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