Missouri lawmakers have reintroduced a proposal that would allow judges to order poachers to pay restitution fees ranging from $375 to $5,000.

Two identical bills filed in the Missouri House and Senate could gain more traction among lawmakers this year considering three recent cases in which elk were illegally killed, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

Under the proposed legislation, the fees vary depending on whether poachers were convicted for illegally killing deer, elk, black bears, turkeys or paddlefish. Deer poachers could face fines between $1,000 and $2,000, while fines for poaching wild turkey range from $375 to $750. The restitution money would be added to the state’s education fund.

“Under current Missouri law, the maximum fine for poaching can actually be smaller than the cost of buying a proper hunting or fishing license,” said Republican Sen. Mike Bernskoetter, who’s sponsoring one of the bills. “This has prompted some poachers to simply take their chances rather than pay for a permit.”

A bill seeking the same passed the House last year but died in a Senate committee. Lawmakers may view the proposed legislation with more urgency this time around, after two elk were shot this month and one was killed in January. Missouri doesn’t have a hunting season for elk.

“The rash of poaching at our elk conservation areas illustrates the necessity of harsher deterrents for poachers. Two of our elk were illegally shot in Shannon County this month, not for meat or even for their antlers, but just for sport,” Bernskoetter said. “These callous acts should demonstrate to all Missourians the need for harsher poaching penalties.”

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