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Arkansas Farmer Sentenced for Dove Baiting


May 23, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, 404/679-72

On May 22, Little Rock U.S. District Judge Susan Weber Wright sentenced Peyton Upton, a farmer from Hughes, Arkansas, to pay a $5,000 fine and put him on a one-year probation for "placing or directing the placement of bait" for the purpose of dove hunting. Upton's probationary period prohibits him from dove hunting for one year.

Upton's sentencing is the result of a cooperative investigation between the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The investigation revealed that in August 2002, Upton directed his employees to distribute milo grains on to a plowed field on his farm in St. Francis County. In September 2002, Upton invited 35 hunters to hunt mourning doves on the baited field. On the day of the hunt, law enforcement officers found wheat, corn, and sunflower seeds, in addition to the milo seeds, on top of the ground in the field.

"Hunting mourning doves over lands that have been baited with salt, grain, or other feed, is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act," said Thomas R. Riley, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Senior Agent In Charge of Law Enforcement in the Southeast Region. "However, nothing prohibits hunting in areas where grains are found scattered as a result of normal agricultural planting or harvest."

Each of the 35 hunters involved in the September 2002 hunting incident received a $300 citation because of the obvious presence of the grains in Upton's Field. In 1998, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was amended to make it illegal to hunt in a baited area if the hunter "knows or reasonably should know" that the area is baited.

Following the joint state and federal investigation, Bud Cummins, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, filed a one count criminal information charging Upton with the violation, and Upton entered a guilty plea to the charge.

For more information on the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and baiting, hunters should contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at telephone 501/324-5643 or the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at telephone 501/223-6300.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 94-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses 541 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

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